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By Sam Cohen/Aug. 24, 2021 10:36 am EDT/Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 10:39 am EDT

The Mayo Clinic defines delirium as “​​a serious disturbance in mental abilities that results in confused thinking and reduced awareness of the environment.” The condition develops rapidly over the course of a few hours or a few days, depending on the person it’s afflicting and what has caused the disruption. The disturbance is usually caused by several common causes, including severe or chronic illness, clozapine review article surgery, infection, medication, and changes in your metabolic balance, per the Mayo Clinic.

It’s important to understand the first signs and symptoms of delirium as this helps you receive a diagnosis more quickly so that you can proactively treat the disturbance. Signs include difficulty speaking or thinking clearly, incontinence or loss of your muscle control, drowsiness, trouble sleeping, and impairment of your short-term memory (via Healthline). If you’ve developed any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to determine if you’re experiencing delirium and how it can be treated.

These are the most common causes of delirium

Delirium is often caused by several factors and occurs when “the normal sending and receiving of signals in the brain become impaired,” per the Mayo Clinic. The impairment can be caused by sleep deprivation or severe emotional distress. Additional causes include drug or alcohol withdrawal, drug intoxication, fever, dehydration, malnutrition, and the flu. If you’ve experienced a medical emergency or condition such as a heart attack, or you’re suffering from lung disease, delirium may be triggered by these issues.

Some people experience delirium due to a combination of medications they’re taking, which may be the case for you as well. A combination of pain medication, asthma medication, steroids, and sleep medication may cause delirium to occur. The best way to determine what’s causing your delirium is to seek a medical diagnosis, especially since you’ll require medical treatment to manage the situation and prevent it from worsening (per Healthline).

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