Delirium is a condition that features rapidly changing mental states. It causes confusion and changes in behavior. Besides falling in and out of consciousness, there may be problems with
- Attention and awareness
- Thinking and memory
- Muscle control
- Sleeping and waking
Causes of delirium include medications, poisoning, serious illnesses or infections, and severe pain. It can also be part of some mental illnesses or dementia.
Delirium and dementia have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to tell them apart. They can also occur together. Delirium starts suddenly and can cause hallucinations. The symptoms may get better or worse, and can last for hours or weeks. On the other hand, dementia develops slowly and does not cause hallucinations. The symptoms are stable, and may last for months or years.
Delirium tremens is a serious type of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It usually happens to people who stop drinking after years of alcohol abuse.
People with delirium often, though not always, make a full recovery after their underlying illness is treated.
- ICU Delirium Tied to Higher Death Risk, Study Says (06/01/2015, HealthDay)
- Delirium or Dementia -- Do You Know the Difference? (Alzheimer's Association)
Health Check Tools
- Delirium (DSHI Systems)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Delirium (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Find a Neurologist (American Academy of Neurology)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Available in Spanish