An alteration in mental status refers to general changes in brain function, such as confusion, amnesia (memory loss), loss of alertness, disorientation (not cognizant of self, time, or place), defects in judgment or thought, unusual or strange behavior, poor regulation of emotions, and disruptions in perception, psychomotor skills, and behavior. While an altered mental status is obviously characteristic of a number of psychiatric and emotional conditions, medical conditions and injuries that cause damage to the brain, including alcohol or drug overdose and withdrawal syndromes, can also cause mental status changes. Confusion, lethargy, delirium, dementia, encephalopathy, and organic brain syndrome are all terms that have been used to refer to conditions hallmarked by mental status changes.
Other causes of altered mental status
- Brain Infections/Abscesses
- Decompression Sickness
- Drug Overdose
- High Altitude Cerebral Edema
- Infection of the Brain or CNS
- Korsakoff Syndrome
- Lipid Storage Diseases
- Liver Failure
- Respiratory Failure
- Severe Hemorrhage
- Thyroid Storm
- Vascular Dementia
- Wernicke Syndrome
- Wilson Disease
- Withdrawal From Drug or Alcohol Dependence
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Causes of Altered Mental Status
Listeria is a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Listeriosis symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and fever. Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. Listeria infection is treated with antibiotics.
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Bipolar disorder (or manic depression) is a mental illness characterized by depression, mania, and severe mood swings. Treatment may incorporate mood-stabilizer medications, antidepressants, and psychotherapy.
Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Brain damage causes destruction or deterioration of brain cells. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and acquired brain injury (ABI) are two kinds of brain damage. Symptoms may include headaches, confusion, memory problems, nausea, and more. Treatment includes patient stabilization and ensuring that blood and oxygen are flowing to the brain. Adequate blood pressure control is also necessary. In cases of severe brain damage, surgery and rehabilitation may be required.
Brain Tumor: Warning Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatments, and Cure
A brain tumor can be either non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), primary, or secondary. Common symptoms of a primary brain tumor are headaches, seizures, memory problems, personality changes, and nausea and vomiting. Causes and risk factors include age, gender, family history, and exposure to chemicals. Treatment is depends upon the tumor type, grade, and location.
Brief Psychotic Disorder
Brief psychotic disorder is a short-term mental illness that features psychotic symptoms. There are three forms of brief psychotic disorder. The first occurs shortly after a major stress, the second has no apparent trauma that triggers the illness, and the third is associated with postpartum onset. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, unusual behavior, disorientation, changes in eating and sleeping, and speech that doesn't make sense. Treatment typically involves medication and psychotherapy.
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Dementia is defined as a significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory capacity, severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. There are several different types of dementia, including cortical, subcortical, progressive, primary, and secondary dementias. Other conditions and medication reactions can also cause dementia. Dementia is diagnosed based on a certain set of criteria. Treatment for dementia is generally focused on the symptoms of the disease.
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
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Do Hypochondriacs Feel Real Symptoms?
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Encephalopathy means brain disease, damage, or malfunction. Causes of encephalopathy are varied and numerous. The main symptom of encephalopathy is an altered mental state. Other symptoms include: lethargy, dementia, seizures, tremors, and coma. Treatment of encephalopathy depends on the type of encephalopathy (anoxia, diabetic, Hashimoto's, hepatic, hyper - hypotensive, infectious, metabolic, infections, uremic, or Wernicke's) are examples of types of encephalopathy.
Frontotemporal Dementia (Pick's Disease and Semantic Dementia)
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Heat Stroke (A Very Serious Condition)
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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
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Is Meningitis Contagious?
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Kidney (Renal) Failure
Kidney failure can occur from an acute event or a chronic condition or disease. Prerenal kidney failure is caused by blood loss, dehydration, or medication. Some of the renal causes of kidney failure include sepsis, medications, rhabdomyolysis, multiple myeloma, and acute glomerulonephritis. Post renal causes of kidney failure include bladder obstruction, prostate problems, tumors, or kidney stones.Treatment options included diet, medications, or dialysis.
Lewy Body Dementia (Dementia with Lewy Bodies)
Lewy body dementia (LBD or dementia with Lewy bodies) is one the most common causes of dementia. There are two types of LBD: 1) dementia with Lewy bodies, and 2) Parkinson's disease dementia. Symptoms of LBD are changes in a person's ability to think, movement problems, and sleep disorders. Treatment of LBD includes lifestyle changes, management of symptoms, palliative care, and medications to manage symptoms.
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is a syndrome in which a person's blood sugar is dangerously low. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk for this condition. There are other diseases that can cause a person's blood sugar levels to go too low, for example, pancreatitis, Cushing's syndrome, and pancreatic cancer. Symptoms and signs that your blood sugar levels are too low include palpitations, trembling, intense hunger, sweating, nervousness, and weakness. If your blood sugars become too low, use these nearby as a quick treatment table sugar, soda, juice, and glucose tablets.
Malaria is a disease that is spread by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Malaria symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and body aches. Treatment involves supportive care and antibiotics.
Mental health is an optimal way of thinking, relating to others, and feeling. All of the diagnosable mental disorders fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders are common types of mental illness. Symptoms and signs of mental illness include irritability, moodiness, insomnia, headaches, and sadness. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Mucormycosis (zygomycosis) is a fungal infection caused by Zygomycetes. Symptoms and signs include fever, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, bloody vomit, and possible altered mental status. Treatment usually involves debridement of infected tissue and antifungal drugs.
Narcolepsy (Definition, Symptoms, Treatment, Medication)
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Reye's syndrome (RS or Reye syndrome) is a sudden, sometimes fatal, disease of the brain with degeneration of the liver. Reye syndrome is associated with giving children medications containing aspirin. Symptoms include vomiting, listlessness, irritability or combativeness, confusion, delirium, delusions, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. Treatment depends on early diagnosis and focuses on protecting the brain against irreversible damage by reducing brain swelling, reversing the metabolic injury, preventing complications in the lungs, and anticipating cardiac arrest.
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Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness that features schizophrenia and a mood disorder, either major depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms include agitation, suicidal thoughts, little need for sleep, delusions, hallucinations, and poor motivation. Treatment may involve psychotherapy, medication, skills training, or hospitalization.
Schizophrenia is a disabling brain disorder that may cause hallucinations and delusions and affect a person's ability to communicate and pay attention. Symptoms of psychosis appear in men in their late teens and early 20s and in women in their mid-20s to early 30s. With treatment involving the use of antipsychotic medications and psychosocial treatment, schizophrenia patients can lead rewarding and meaningful lives.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
Seizures Symptoms and Types
Seizures are divided into two categories: generalized and partial. Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the brain, while partial seizures are produced by electrical impulses in a small part of the brain. Seizure symptoms include unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.
Sepsis (blood poisoning) is a potentially deadly infection with signs and symptoms that include elevated heart rate, low or high temperature, rapid breathing and/or a white blood cell count that is too high or too low and has more than 10% band cells. Most cases of sepsis are caused by bacterial infections, and some cases are caused by fungal infections. Treatment requires hospitalization, IV antibiotics, and therapy to treat any organ dysfunction.
Medical shock is a life-threatening medical condition. There are several types of medical shock, including: septic shock, anaphylactic shock, cardiogenic shock, hypovolemic shock, and neurogenic shock. Causes of shock include: heart attack, heart failure, heavy bleeding (internal and external), infection, anaphylaxis, spinal cord injury, severe burns, chronic vomiting or diarrhea. Low blood pressure is the key sign of sock. Treatment is dependant upon the type of shock.
Sick Building Syndrome
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or also referred to as sick building syndrome or environmental illness is the name given by some to a condition in which various symptoms reportedly appear after a person has been exposed to any of a wide range of chemicals. The exposure may occur as a major event, such as a chemical spill, or from long-term contact with low-levels of chemicals, such as in an office with poor ventilation. As a result of exposure, people with MCS (sick building syndrome) develop sensitivity and have reactions to the chemicals even at levels most people can tolerate.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that are related to testosterone and promote skeletal muscle growth and the development of male sexual characteristics in both men and women. In the 1930s, it was discovered that anabolic steroids could promote skeletal muscle growth in lab animals, which lead to anabolic steroid abuse by bodybuilders and weight lifters.
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include: weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
Suicide is the process of intentionally ending one's own life. Approximately 1 million people worldwide commit suicide each year, and 10 million to 20 million attempt suicide annually.
Teen Drug Abuse
Drugs commonly abused by teens include tobacco products, marijuana, cold medications, inhalants, depressants, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, PCP, ketamine, Ecstasy, and anabolic steroids. Some of the symptoms and warning signs of teen drug abuse include reddened whites of eyes, paranoia, sleepiness, excessive happiness, seizures, memory loss, increased appetite, discolored fingertips, lips or teeth, and irritability. Treatment of drug addiction may involve a combination of medication, individual, and familial interventions.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA, Mini-Stroke)
When a portion of the brain loses blood supply, through a blood clot or embolus, a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini-stroke) may occur. If the symptoms do not resolve, a stroke most likely has occurred. Symptoms of TIA include: confusion, weakness, lethargy, and loss of function to one side of the body. Risk factors for TIA include vascular disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Treatment depends upon the severity of the TIA, and whether it resolves.
Examples of Medications for Altered Mental Status
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