Temporary Confusion or Decreased Alertness

Temporary Confusion or Decreased Alertness

Topic Overview

Many health problems cause confusion or decreased alertness. It is not unusual for a person who is sick to be sleepy or confused when he or she wakes up. But extreme sleepiness may be a symptom of a more serious health problem.

Confusion may range from mild to severe. Symptoms of confusion may include:

  • Jumbled or disorganized thoughts.
  • Unusual, bizarre, or aggressive behavior.
  • Having trouble solving problems or doing tasks that used to be easy for you.
  • Not knowing where you are or not recognizing family members or familiar items.
  • Firmly held but false beliefs (delusions).
  • Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that are not really there (hallucinations or illusions).
  • Unfounded suspicions that others are after you or want to harm you (paranoia).

Decreased alertness occurs when a person is not fully awake, aware of, or able to respond normally to his or her external environment. Decreased alertness may also mean that a chronic illness has gotten worse.

A sudden change in the mental state or level of consciousness may be caused by:

Other problems that may lead to confusion or decreased alertness include:

  • Decreased hearing or vision.
  • Electrolyte imbalances, such as low levels of sodium and potassium in the blood.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
  • Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.
  • Sleep problems, such as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep (insomnia) or sleep apnea.

A complete medical examination may be needed before the cause of your confusion or decreased alertness can be diagnosed. Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Contact your doctor for an exam if you are having problems with confusion or decreased alertness.

Credits

Current as of: June 26, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website, and its associated websites, is provided as a benefit to the local community, and the Internet community in general; it does not constitute medical advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. As medical advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient and healthcare is constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of a competent physician. Furthermore, in providing this service, Adventist HealthCare does not condone or support all of the content covered in this site. As an Adventist health care organization, Adventist HealthCare acts in accordance with the ethical and religious directives for Adventist health care services.

Find a Doctor

Find an Adventist HealthCare affiliated doctor by calling our FREE physician referral service at 800-642-0101 or by searching our online physician directory.

View Doctors

Set Your Location

Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.