by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Delirium is sudden confusion.
Causes of delirium are not well known. It can be caused by an injury or illness that affects the brain.
Delirium is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms happen quickly. They may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A cognitive exam will also be done. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.
These tests may be done when more information is needed:
Most people will get better when the cause of the delirium is treated, such as treating an infection. Symptoms may also need to be treated. This can be done with:
Some medicine may need to be stopped or changed.
Medicines to treat delirium may be:
Delirium is hard to prevent as it starts quickly and has many causes.
American Psychiatric Association
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Delirium in hospitalized patients. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated September 24, 2019. Accessed October 18, 2019.
Inouye SK, Westendorp RG, et al. Delirium in elderly people. Lancet. 2014 Mar 8;383(9920):911-22, commentary can be found in Lancet 2014 Jun 14;383(9934):2044.
4/29/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Litton E, Carnegie V, et al. The efficacy of earplugs as a sleep hygiene strategy for reducing delirium in the ICU: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Care Med. 2016;44(5):992-999.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 8/7/2020
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.