What is confusion?

Confusion occurs when a person has difficulty understanding a situation or has disordered or unclear thoughts. It can be accompanied by memory loss, disorientation, or the inability to think quickly.

Brain Symptoms Spotlight

Confusion can increase slowly over time or come on abruptly, depending upon the cause. It may be associated with serious infections, some chronic medical conditions, head injury, brain or spinal cord tumor, delirium, stroke, or dementia. It can also be caused by alcohol or drug intoxication, sleep disorders, chemical or electrolyte imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, or medications. It can also occur in the period following a seizure or as a result of hypothermia.

Confusion in the elderly may be aggravated by environment changes, such as being admitted to the hospital, or as a result of sundowning (confusion occurring late in the day or at night, that may accompany certain types of dementia) in the late afternoon or evening. Behavioral changes can accompany confusion.

Depending upon the cause, confusion may be a temporary, treatable condition or may be progressive.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911)for the rapid onset of confusion, especially if it is accompanied by high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), neck stiffness or rigidity, rash, head injury, changes in level of consciousness or alertness, flushing or dry skin, severe nausea and vomiting, fruity breath, or other symptoms that cause you concern.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with confusion?

Confusion may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the brain may also involve other body systems or disorders.... Read more about confusionsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes confusion?

Confusion may be associated with serious infections, some chronic medical conditions, head injury, brain or spinal cord tumor, delirium, stroke, or dementia. It can be caused by alcohol or drug intoxication, sleep disorders, chemical or electrolyte imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, or medications. It can also occur in the period following a seizure, called the postictal period, or as a result of hypothermia.... Read more about confusioncauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves