Altered mental status: Know about its symptoms, causes, and treatment
The brain is like the CPU of our system that influences how we think, move, and feel. When the brain gets impaired, it may cause you to behave or act in a way that you normally wouldn't. Altered mental status is a general term referring to a change to your average mental function. To know more about this condition, keep reading.
What is altered mental status (AMS)?
AMS is a disruption in your brain functioning. This disruption can cause a change in your behavior or thinking skills. This can happen either suddenly or over days. AMS ranges from slight confusion to total disorientation and increased sleepiness to coma. It can arise from certain disorders, illnesses, and injuries affecting your brain. Often the change is temporary but can become life-threatening too.
Types of altered mental status
There are three types of AMS - delirium, dementia, and psychosis. Delirium - Change in mental function that often results in confusion and lack of awareness of the environment. Dementia - Decline in mental function that results in difficulty remembering things and trouble thinking or making decisions. Psychosis - It happens when people lose touch with reality and usually involves hallucinations and delusions.
The various symptoms of AMS
The symptoms of AMS may vary depending on the type - delirium, dementia, or psychosis. For delirium, the symptoms may include hallucinations, cognitive impairments such as poor thinking skills, emotional disturbances, and reduced awareness of the surroundings. Symptoms of dementia may include trouble with memory, attention problems, and poor problem-solving skills. In psychosis, there are two major symptoms - delusion and hallucination.
What causes altered mental status?
Different types of AMS may have different causes. AMS may be caused due to problems in the central nervous system such as brain hemorrhage, brain tumor, seizure, or stroke. It can also be caused due to drug overdose or withdrawal. Often metabolic disorders like dehydration and hypoglycemia can cause AMS. Some infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, and even urinary tract infections can cause AMS.
How is altered mental status treated?
The treatment will depend on the cause of your AMS. Your doctor may administer or change medications prescribed earlier in case of undesired reactions. The doctor may administer oxygen or fluids. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to repair hemorrhage or relieve pressure on your brain. Some causes of AMS, like Alzheimer's disease, don't have a cure and instead require supportive care.