Possible causes include:
Delirium can be triggered by a serious medical illness such as an infection, certain medications, and other causes, such as drug withdrawal or intoxication. Older patients, over 65 years, are at highest risk for developing delirium. People with previous brain disease or brain damage are also at risk.
The most common causes of sudden confusion include: a lack of oxygen in the blood (hypoxia) – the cause could be anything from a severe asthma attack to a problem with the lungs or heart. an infection anywhere in the body, especially in elderly people. a stroke or TIA (‘mini stroke’)
In fact, it’s pretty common for it to take weeks — or even months — for delirium to completely resolve in an older adult. In some cases, the person never recovers back to their prior normal. For more on delirium, see: 10 Things to Know About Delirium (includes information on delirium vs.
Overall, delirium is a common and usually reversible syndrome that may be precipitated by almost any organ-system–related acute illness or an exacerbation of an existing chronic illness. Drugs are the most common reversible cause of delirium.
Experts have identified three types of delirium:
The cause of dehydration is multifactorial, related to swallowing difficulty, lack of thirst, cognitive impairment, physical limitations (including restraints), and misuse of diuretics (3). Dehydration is both a predisposing and precipitating factor for delirium or acute confusional state (4).
A new study of nearly 150 patients hospitalized for COVID at the beginning of the pandemic found that 73% had delirium, a serious disturbance in mental state wherein a patient is confused, agitated and unable to think clearly.
Delirium often clears in a few days or weeks. Some may not respond to treatment for many weeks. You may also see problems with memory and thought process that do not go away. Talk to your health provider about your concerns.
Delirium often lasts about 1 week. It may take several weeks for mental function to return to normal. Full recovery is common, but depends on the underlying cause of the delirium.
Although delirium is one of the most common neuropsychiatric problems in patients with advanced cancer, it is poorly recognised and poorly treated. Delirium is prevalent at the end of life, particularly during the final 24–48 h.
In extreme cases, delirium can be fatal, so it’s vital that the person receives treatment as soon as possible.
What are infectious causes of delirium?
Observational studies show that the most common drugs associated with delirium are sedative hypnotics (benzodiazepines), analgesics (narcotics), and medications with an anticholinergic effect. Other medications in toxic doses can also cause delirium.
Any stress (due to a drug, disorder, or situation) that causes the level of acetylcholine to further decrease can make it harder for the brain to function. Thus, in older people, such stresses are particularly likely to cause delirium.
Plasma sodium level and hypertension were important risk factors for the delirium medical subgroup. Stroke history, hypertension, ICU care, and medication were important risk factors for the delirium surgical subgroup.