What is Delirium
- VHL HealthSheet #41417_VA
Delirium is a sudden change in a person’s mental state that fluctuates over short periods of time. It can cause a person to have a hard time paying attention or having a conversation. Thinking and speech may be confused, illogical, unclear, and random. A person’s mental state may vary from being restless and alert to sluggish and sleepy. At times the person can be frankly disoriented, hallucinate, and be combative.
Delirium is a medical emergency. If delirium is not diagnosed and treated, it can lead to permanent problems or even death.
Who Is At Risk for Delirium?
- VHL HealthSheet #41419_VA
Delirium happens most often in older adults. It can happen when a person is in an unfamiliar place, such as a hospital. It is common after surgery or during any serious illness. Other causes include drug abuse, withdrawal from drug abuse, certain medicines, toxins, and infections.
The Difference Between Delirium and Dementia
- VHL HealthSheet #41427_VA
Dementia and delirium are both health conditions that change a person’s ability to think clearly and care for themselves. They do share some similar symptoms. But they have different causes, treatment, and outcomes.
Delirium is seen as a medical emergency that needs to be treated right away. But it can often be mistaken for dementia. In some cases, these conditions can occur at the same time. Learn how they are different, and what you can do to help a person who has signs of either or both.