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Causes and treatment of delirium I Shaio

Delirium is called a disorder neuropsychiatric, in which the state of consciousness and behavior of the person suffering it varies; usually this syndrome appears due to a physical illness that can be fluctuating, temporary and reversible.

What causes delirium?

There are many factors that can trigger delirium, ranging from suffering from a serious or chronic illness through extreme pain, to a chemical imbalance in the body such as low sodium, but it can also be caused by some medications, infections , surgeries, the consumption or abstinence of alcohol and psychoactive substances.

Who is most at risk of delirium?

It has been seen that people over the age of 65 are at greater risk of delirium, because their neurons are more susceptible than those of a young person. This does not mean that a young person cannot suffer from this disorder.

Another high-risk factor for developing the syndrome is in people who have some type of disease, either pulmonary, renal, hepatic, cardiovascular, a stroke or some type of serious fall injury.

People exposed to an extreme or toxic environment may also be prone to delirium.

What does a patient with delirium look like?

When a person has a physical illness or disease that burdens them, emotional and physical stress is generated, which directly affects the nervous system by triggering a hormonal and inflammatory response in the brain, causing the neurons not to function properly. If these stimuli are repetitive, it can lead to irreversible deterioration. Each time a patient has delirium, this stimulus becomes negative for the brain and the impact will be greater on cognitive impairment.

Patients with delirium may present with:

  • disorientation

  • Attention difficulties

  • Memory lapses, mainly short-term

  • Alterations in sleep (sleep during the day and not at night)

  • anxiety

  • anguish

  • restlessness

  • inconsistency

  • Hypoactive with low energy

  • Aggression and irritability

  • Hallucinations or strange thoughts

?How prevent delirium?

Since delirium usually occurs in people with procedures or treatments for illness, it is important to highlight that in hospitalization for every 100 patients there is an average of 18 who develop the syndrome; in other, more special situations, the percentage increases, for example, out of every 100 who are in the ICU, 80 develop the disorder.

For this reason it is important to take preventive measures such as:

  • Constantly reorient the patient: remembering things like where you are, the date, day or time, and why you are there will help you feel connected to reality.

  • Be patient and explain to the patient: your current state of health and the process of hospital care.

  • Have an illuminated environment: this will allow the patient to know whether it is day or night and their circadian cycle will not be so altered.

  • Do cognitive stimulation: carrying out activities such as reading, listening to music, doing crosswords, letter soups, painting or talking about pleasant things, allows the patient to reorient his attention.

  • Family or friends ca they are of utmost importance: so that a patient does not have this syndrome, accompanying him in the hospitalization process will make him feel calmer.

The health staff periodically evaluates the aspects that may cause delirium, either for physical, metabolic or mental reasons.

How to treat delirium when a patient has it?

When a patient entered delirium, it is important to carry out all preventive measures, and to accompany them with therapy or physical stimulation, this will help him recover quickly. It should be noted that drug treatment is only used if the attending physician requests it or if it is a very extreme case.

This article was advised by Dr. Laura Catalina López, psychiatrist at the Shaio Clinic.

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