Delir: Manifold causes

When one hears the word "delirium" or "delirium" one usually automatically thinks of a condition that is mistakenly attributed to alcohol abuse. But delirium is found in up to 50% of all inpatients - and not only in alcoholics.

Definition: What is a delirium?

A delirium is a disease in which, in addition to a restriction of consciousness and attention, there are several other symptoms:

  • First, the perception must be disturbed, which is often expressed by optical hallucinations. Best known are the proverbial white mice you see in delirium. Much more often, however, are seen shadows or bugs that scurries through the corners. In addition, delusions, memory lapses and a temporal disorientation are possible.
  • Furthermore, psychomotor disturbances must exist - often one can observe how the person concerned fiddles with his blanket, is very restless, does not want to stay in bed or talks much more or less than usual.
  • The sleep-wake rhythm gets mixed up. A delirious person can often not sleep at night, his delirium symptoms worsen; By contrast, the person affected is very sleepy during the day and looks dizzy.
  • The affect is impaired: anxiety, tearfulness, but also euphoria and aggressiveness occur.

A delirium often develops within hours: first, the person affected a bit confused, after a short time, several of the above symptoms. Overall, about 20% of all inpatients experience delirium. Almost half of the over 65-year-old hospital patients develop a delirious condition.

Causes of a delirium

There are patients who are much more susceptible to a delirious condition than others. Both high and very low age is a risk factor for delirium development. In addition, a pre-existing brain damage, alcohol dependence, a metabolic disorder such as diabetes, fever, a serious physical illness such as cancer and the use of several different drugs increase the risk.

If one of the risk factors is present and the person then additionally develops a disease of the brain, another serious illness, eg an infection or a cardiac arrhythmia or a serious organ disease such as an increasing kidney or liver failure, a delirious condition can develop very quickly.

If you look closely at both the risk factors and the causes of a delirium, it is not surprising that so many people develop delirium in the hospital after their 65th birthday - after all, many older people meet the requirements: age, cardiovascular Illness, metabolic problems and multiple medications.

Certain diseases as a risk factor

Delirium is particularly common in certain conditions, including unplanned hip joint surgery after a broken leg, burns and open heart surgery. Likewise, delirium is often due to poisoning or deprivation of substances that affect the brain. In addition to alcohol, such substances are primarily amphetamines, but also drugs such as antidepressants or Parkinson's agents.

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