Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:


Head trauma
Head trauma

Alternative Names    Return to top

Disorientation; Thinking - unclear; Thoughts - cloudy

Definition    Return to top

Confusion is the inability to think with your usual speed or clarity, including feeling disoriented and having difficulty paying attention, remembering, and making decisions.

Considerations    Return to top

Confusion may come on quickly or slowly over time, depending on the cause. Many times, confusion is temporary. Other times it is permanent and not curable.

Confusion is more common in the elderly, and often occurs during a hospital stay.

Some confused people may act aggressively.

Causes    Return to top

Home Care    Return to top

A good way to find out if someone 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. For safety, the person may need physical restraints.

To help a confused person:

For sudden confusion due to low blood sugar (for example, from diabetes medication), the person should drink a sweet drink or eat a sweet snack. If the confusion lasts longer than 10 minutes, call the doctor.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call 911 if:

If you have been experiencing confusion, call for an appointment with your doctor.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit    Return to top

The doctor will do a physical examination and ask questions such as:

Tests may include:

Prevention    Return to top

References    Return to top

Leclerc S, Lassonde M, Delaney J S et al. Recommendations for grading of concussion in athletes. Sports Med. 2001; 31: 629-636.

Bazakis AM, Kunzler C. Altered Mental Status Due to Metabolic or Endocrine Disorders. Emer Med Clinics of North America. 2005; 23(3): 901-908.

Biem J. Out of the cold: management of hypothermia and frostbite. CMAJ. 2003; 168(3): 305-311.

Update Date: 2/13/2008

Updated by: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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