Know the basics
What is delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens is sudden confusion occurs when a heavy drinkers stop drinking. Confusion is disorientation, hallucinations, changing emotions, and unruly or violent behavior.
Delirium tremens, or DTs, is a severe kind of alcohol withdrawal.
How common is delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens commonly occurs alcohol delirium occurs in people who drink heavily for a long time, with a history of alcohol withdrawal syndrome or had delirium. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of delirium tremens?
Symptoms may get worse quickly, and can include:
- Body tremors;
- Changes in mental function;
- Agitation, irritability;
- Confusion, disorientation;
- Decreased attention span;
- Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer;
- Hallucinations (seeing or feeling things that are not really there);
- Increased activity;
- Quick mood changes;
- Restlessness, excitement;
- Sensitivity to light, sound, touch;
- Stupor, sleepiness, fatigue.
Seizures (may occur without other symptoms of DTs):
- Most common in the first 12 to 48 hours after the last drink.
- Most common in people with past complications from alcohol withdrawal.
- Usually generalized tonic-clonic seizures.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
See a doctor or allergist if you have food allergy symptoms shortly after eating. If possible, see your doctor when the allergic reaction is occurring. This will help your doctor make a diagnosis. Seek emergency treatment if you develop any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Know the causes
What causes delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens can occur when you stop drinking alcohol after a period of heavy drinking, especially if you do not eat enough food.
Delirium tremens may also be caused by head injury, infection, or illness in people with a history of heavy alcohol use.
It is most common in people who have a history of alcohol withdrawal. It is especially common in those who drink 4 to 5 pints of wine, 7 to 8 pints of beer, or 1 pint of “hard” alcohol every day for several months. Delirium tremens also commonly affects people who have used alcohol for more than 10 years.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for delirium tremens?
Food allergy risk factors include:
- Drinking too much and drink regularly for a long time or be regularly drunk can create a physical dependence on alcohol.
- Age: people who start drinking at an early age have a higher risk of alcohol abuse or physical dependence on alcohol.
- Family history: the risk of alcoholism is higher among those with parents or other relatives were alcoholics.
- Depression and other mental health problems : DTs is common in people with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder.
- Social factors and cultures: have a friend or partner frequent drinking may increase the risk of alcoholism. Drinking alcohol is sometimes used in the media can also spread the wrong message that excessive drinking is normal.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is delirium tremens diagnosed?
Your doctor will make a diagnosis from the history of alcohol withdrawal in people who abuse alcohol. Besides, the following tests may also be done:
- Blood magnesium level;
- Blood phosphate level;
- Comprehensive metabolic panel;
- Electrocardiogram (ECG);
- Electroencephalogram (EEG);
- Toxicology screen.
How is delirium tremens treated?
DTs can be life-threatening and are a medical emergency. Most people need treatment in a detox unit. Detoxification usually takes a few days to a week. People may need extra fluids during this time, usually given with the intravenous fluids to control agitation and prevent seizures. Other medical, surgical, or psychiatric conditions also need treatment.
In long term, patient will need treatments to prevent recurrence as:
- Completely withdrawing from alcohol.
- Meeting the consultants.
- Changing old bad habits and behavior such as drinking beer with friends.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage delirium tremens?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Delirium tremens:
- Find a support group for alcoholics if you think that would help.
- Don’t stop taking prescribed medicines or change the dosage because you feel better unless your health care provider tells you to.
- Don’t lie to your health care provider about alcohol abuse. If the health care provider doesn’t mention it, you should.
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.
Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium. http://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/delirium-tremens#Description1. Accessed September 17, 2015
Delirium Tremens. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000766.htm. Accessed September 17, 2015.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Print edition. Page 682
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017