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Alternative namesDisorientation; Thinking - unclear; Thoughts - cloudy
DefinitionConfusion is the inability to think with your usual speed or clarity. When confused, you have difficulty focusing your attention and may feel disoriented. Confusion interferes with your ability to make decisions.
Confusion may come on suddenly or gradually over time, depending on the cause. Some confused people may behave aggressively.
Many times, confusion is temporary. Other times it is permanent and not curable. Confusion is more common in the elderly, and often occurs when hospitalized.
Confusion may be caused by:
A good way to test to see if a person is confused is to ask the person his or her name, age, and the date. If they are unsure or answer incorrectly, they are confused.
A confused person should not be left alone. To ensure a confused person's safety, physical restraints may be required in some situations. Try to keep the surroundings calm, quiet, and peaceful.
When visiting a person whose confusion is from a chronic disease, you should always introduce yourself each time you see them, no matter how well he or she once knew you. Placing a calendar and clock near the person can help keep him or her oriented. When taking care of someone who is confused, frequently remind the person of his or her location. Talk to him or her about current events and plans for the day.
For sudden confusion due to low blood sugar (for example, from diabetes), the person should drink a sweet drink or eat a sweet snack. If the confusion lasts longer than 10 minutes, call the doctor.
Call your health care provider if
Call 911 if:
If you have had ongoing confusion that came on gradually, call for an appointment with your doctor if you have never been evaluated for this problem.
The doctor will perform a phsyical examination and ask questions such as:
The physical examination will include a thorough evaluation of brain and nervous system function. Neurologic tests and cognitive tests may be performed. Tests such as an MRI of the head, blood and urine tests, and an EEG may be indicated, depending upon accompanying signs and symptoms.
Update Date: 8/7/2003Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc. Galit Kleiner-Fisman MD, FRCPC, Department of Neurology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (1/17/2001).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT