How Is Delirium Different From Dementia?

A disturbed state of mind referred to as delirium, often confused with dementia, involves feelings of illusion, restlessness and incoherence. Read on to know more about delirium, its causes, treatment and how it differs from dementia.

How is delirium different from dementia

What Is Delirium?

It is a disturbance in the functioning of the mind. It leads to confused thinking and a lack of awareness about one's surroundings. Delirium starts quite quickly, within a matter of a few hours or days. Medication, chronic illness, alcohol/drug intoxication, metabolic imbalance, etc., are reasons that can cause delirium to occur. This disturbance of the mind occurs when the sending and receiving of signals in the brain do not function normally.

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Delirium?

Symptoms of delirium keep fluctuating throughout the day and there could be certain times when there are no signs of it present at all. Symptoms tend to worsen at night. Some of the common signs and symptoms of delirium are mentioned below.

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• Reduced awareness of the surrounding

The person would find it difficult to just focus on one topic. Lack of communication abilities (person seems to be stuck with an idea, without being able to answer questions), appearing to be withdrawn with least activity. The person gets easily distracted by things that lack importance of any kind.

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• Cognitive impairment

Memory turns weak. Feeling disoriented. Difficulty while speaking or recalling events. Speaking insignificant things. Trouble in understanding what others say. Unable to read or write with ease.

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• Changes in behaviour

Night/day sleep and wake cycle appear reversed. Agitation and restlessness in behaviour are observed. Having hallucinations and disturbed sleep. Feeling of lethargy. Being quiet and withdrawn from society. Making weird sounds.

• Feeling emotionally disturbed
Feeling anxious, depressed, irritable and angry. There is a drastic change in personality. Unpredictable mood shifts. At times, there is a sense of feeling elated.

Night/day sleep and wake cycle appear reversed. Agitation and restlessness in behaviour are observed. Having hallucinations and disturbed sleep. Feeling of lethargy. Being quiet and withdrawn from society. Making weird sounds.

• Feeling emotionally disturbed
Feeling anxious, depressed, irritable and angry. There is a drastic change in personality. Unpredictable mood shifts. At times, there is a sense of feeling elated.

Night/day sleep and wake cycle appear reversed. Agitation and restlessness in behaviour are observed. Having hallucinations and disturbed sleep. Feeling of lethargy. Being quiet and withdrawn from society. Making weird sounds.

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How Is Delirium Different From Dementia?

At times, it might get difficult to distinguish between dementia and delirium. Sometimes, a person might have both. Episodes of delirium, however, do not indicate that the person would also have dementia.

Dementia is considered to be a progressive form of memory decline where the thinking ability deteriorates due to loss of brain cells. Alzheimer's disease is the primary reason behind the occurrence of dementia.

The following are the differences between the symptoms of delirium and dementia:

• With delirium, the ability to maintain focus is impaired to a great extent. In the case of dementia, the person is generally alert, at least during the initial days of this illness.
• Delirium begins to occur within a short duration, whereas dementia worsens over time.
• The symptoms of delirium fluctuate throughout the day, whereas for people with dementia, their thinking skills and memory abilities stay constant in terms of efficiency throughout the day.

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How Do You Treat Delirium?

The treatment begins by treating the underlying causes and addressing the elimination of triggers. Healing the body and keeping the mind calm is the focus of the treatment. Supportive care is provided by treating various conditions that the person with delirium might be facing.

Complications are prevented by doing the following.

• Providing ample nutrition and keeping the person hydrated through lots of fluids
• Protecting the airway
• Incontinence is taken care of
• Pain is treated
• Assistance is provided with movement
• Family members are encouraged to stay with the person more often
• Use of physical restraints are strictly avoided
• Avoiding any kind of changes in the surrounding environment

Medicines and drugs that trigger delirium should be avoided. Family members are the best people to observe and make a judgment about the possible triggers around. Medicines can also help if the person is severely agitated or confused. Hallucinations and paranoia might also need to be treated through appropriate drugs.

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Is Delirium An Emergency?

The person suffering from delirium might turn hyperactive or hypoactive, situations that might indicate a sign of an emergency. In such cases, approaching a doctor immediately would be the best solution. Family members should closely observe the one who has delirium as there could be severe mood swings throughout the day. If the symptoms of delirium are seen to be worsening at any point in time, you should be contacting your healthcare provider immediately.

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    Read more about: dementia brain mind
    Story first published: Thursday, September 20, 2018, 19:00 [IST]
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