can be a serious mental state where people don’t respond to normal
conversation. Instead, they respond only to physical stimulation, such as to
pain or rubbing on their chest, which is known as a sternal rub.
word for stupor is “obtunded.” Stupor can be considered a very serious symptom
because it’s associated with disorders like drug overdose, stroke, lack of
oxygen, meningitis, or brain swelling. It’s important to seek immediate medical
attention when someone shows signs of stupor.
Someone experiencing stupor can be aroused or woken
up with vigorous stimulation. They may be considered unconscious, but may
respond somewhat to stimuli. This is different from someone in a coma because people
in a coma can’t be woken up or aroused at all.
Stupor can cause the following physical symptoms in
addition to mental symptoms:
- abnormal breathing, such as
breathing too slow or fast
- muscles contracted in
- pupils that are wider or
smaller than normal
- pupils that don’t react or
change with exposure to light
There can be other, disease-specific symptoms
associated with stupor as well.
There are many causes of stupor, most of which are
severe diseases. Examples of possible causes of stupor include:
- alcohol intoxication
- brain aneurysm
- brain tumor
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- cardiac arrest
- drug overdose
- encephalitis (brain
- head injury
- hypoxia or lack of oxygen
- kidney failure
- liver failure
- respiratory arrest
- sepsis, a serious
Stupor is always considered a medical emergency. Call 911
immediately if a person around you is experiencing stupor. It’s vital to get fast
care in order to diagnosis the cause of stupor.
Someone with stupor is unable to provide a medical
history. If a loved one or eyewitness is available, a doctor may ask about their
symptoms or any relevant medical history, if available.
The next step is to do a physical examination of the
person. This includes taking vital signs, such as:
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- oxygen saturation
Each of these can provide important information if
the problem is related to the lungs or heart.
The doctor will evaluate how the person is breathing
and any visible injuries that could be causing stupor. This includes head
injuries as well as signs of bleeding on the body. The person’s posture or body
positioning could also indicate stroke.
A neurological or brain examination is next. This
can include testing the person’s reflexes, include pupil reflexes and light
movements. The doctor may provide stimuli, including noise, pressure on the
fingernails, or a sternal rub, to test their response.
The doctor might also do blood testing. This can
- blood sugar levels
- blood counts
- blood clotting
- electrolyte levels
The doctor may order an arterial blood gas (ABG)
test. This test determines the pH of a person’s blood, which can indicate if
too much acid or base is present and causing symptoms.
Imaging tests, especially those to view the brain,
are also often conducted. An example is a computed tomography (CT) scan that
doctors can use to pinpoint bleeding signs.
How someone is treated for stupor depends on the
underlying cause or causes. Because the causes can range from infection to
heart-related to lung-related to all of the above, stupor requires careful and
fast treatment to keep the condition from worsening.