What is confusion?

Confusion is a condition when you are disabled to think as clearly or quickly as you normally do. You may feel disoriented, difficulty paying attention, remembering, and making decisions. In its extreme state, it’s referred to as delirium.

How common is confusion?

Confusion can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of confusion?

The common symptoms of confusion are:

  • Jumbled or disorganized thoughts.
  • Slurring words or having long pauses during speech.
  • Abnormal or incoherent speech.
  • Lack of awareness of location or time.
  • Forgetting what a task is while it is being performed.
  • Changes in emotion, such as sudden agitation.
  • Unusual, bizarre, or aggressive behavior.
  • Having trouble solving problems or doing tasks that used to be easy for you.
  • Not knowing where you are or not recognizing family members or familiar items.
  • Firmly held but false beliefs (delusions).
  • Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that are not really there (hallucinations or illusions).
  • Unfounded suspicions that others are after you or want to harm you (paranoia).

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following alongside with any confusion symptoms:

  • Dizziness;
  • Rapid heartbeat;
  • Clammy skin;
  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Shivering;
  • Irregular breathing;
  • People with diabetes;
  • After a head injury;
  • Unconscious at any time.


What causes confusion?

There are the number of factors that can cause confusion, from serious health problems to vitamin deficiencies. However, alcohol intoxication is a common cause. Other causes include:

  • Concussion. A concussion is a brain injury that occurs as a result of head trauma. A concussion can change someone’s level of alertness as well as their judgment, coordination, and speech. You may not feel confusion due to a concussion until a few days after the injury.
  • Dehydration. Your body loses fluids every day through sweating, urination, and other bodily functions. If you don’t often replace these fluids enough, you could eventually become dehydrated. This can affect the amount of electrolytes (minerals) your body contains, which can cause problems with your body’s ability to function.
  • Medications. Certain medications can cause confusion. Not taking medications as prescribed can also cause confusion. Confusion is the most common sign of medical complications related to cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, which uses chemicals to kill cancer cells, often affects healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Chemotherapy can cause damage to your nerves, which can affect your brain’s functions and cause confusion.

Besides, confusion can be caused by a number of different factors. Other potential causes are:

  • Fever;
  • Infection;
  • Low blood sugar;
  • Sudden rapid drop in body temperature;
  • Depression;
  • Alcohol or drug intoxication;
  • Brain tumor;
  • Illness in an older person, such as loss of brain function (dementia);
  • Illness in a person with existing neurological disease, such as a stroke;
  • Lack of sleep (sleep deprivation);
  • Low levels of oxygen (e.g., from chronic lung disorders);
  • Nutritional deficiencies, especially niacin, thiamine, or vitamin B12;
  • Seizures.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for confusion?

There are many risk factors for confusion, such as:

  • Increasing age (the most significant risk factors);
  • Hospitalization;
  • Post-surgical recovery;
  • Drug abuse;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Underlying brain conditions.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is confusion diagnosed?

The doctor will do a physical examination and ask about your symptoms. He or she will ask questions to learn if the person knows the date, the time, and where patient is. Questions about recent and ongoing illness, among other questions, will also be asked.

Tests that may ordered include:

  • Blood tests;
  • CT scan of the head;
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG);
  • Mental status tests;
  • Neuropsychological tests;
  • Urine tests.

How is confusion treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of the confusion. For example, if an infection is causing the confusion, treating the infection will likely clear the confusion.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage confusion?

A confused person should not be left alone. For safety, the person may need physical restraints.

To help a confused person:

  • Always introduce yourself, no matter how well the person once knew you.
  • Often remind the person of his or her location.
  • Place a calendar and clock near the person.
  • Talk about current events and plans for the day.
  • Try to keep the surroundings calm, quiet, and peaceful.

For sudden confusion due to low blood sugar, the person should drink a sweet drink or eat a sweet snack. If the confusion lasts longer than 10 minutes, call the provider.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 23, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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