Confusion may present itself differently from person to person, with symptoms varying from being unable to make decisions or concentrate on tasks, to disorientation and memory loss.

If you or someone you know is struggling to remember things, is having issues with concentration or has periods of disorientation, it is a good idea to speak to a doctor to find out the cause and get treatment.

Confusion can often be the result of an undiagnosed medical condition, or even due to some medications, which is why it’s good to get medical advice – they can investigate as to why the confusion is happening.

Confusion Symptoms

As we mentioned, the symptoms of confusion can vary from individual to individual and can include some or all of the following:

  • Long pauses during speech
  • Difficulty in finding words or the right words
  • Lack of awareness of the time or location
  • Inability to concentrate on a task
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Abnormal speech
  • Disorientation
  • Memory loss - including not recognising people or calling them the wrong name
  • Increased anxiety

Noticing these symptoms as early as possible will help you or your loved one get treatment as early as possible.

If you recognise these symptoms in yourself, it’s a good idea to speak to family or friends so that they can help you get the treatment that you may need.

When to see a doctor about confusion

If signs of confusion are being shown, you should seek medical attention quickly.

If the confusion comes on suddenly, particularly after a head injury, take the person to the nearest hospital or call 999 urgently, especially if they are displaying other symptoms, such as blue lips or a high fever.

If the person who is confused is diabetic, you need to check their blood sugar level if you can, as high or low blood sugar could be causing the confusion.

If you know how to, check their blood sugar and if their levels are low, give them something sugary – a drink, sweets or snack will do – and wait 10 minutes before testing again. If they don’t improve, take them to the hospital or call 999.

If their blood sugar is high, it’s best to take them to hospital or call 999.

You can find the target blood sugar levels here.

If you can’t check their blood sugar, get medical help.

Causes of confusion

Confusion can be caused by underlying conditions, medications or injury, among other things, so it is essential to identify symptoms and fully discuss these with a doctor. A medical professional should be able to discover the cause of the confusion symptoms and provide the relevant treatment.

There are many factors to consider and common causes of confusion can range from a simple vitamin deficiency or dehydration, to more serious medical conditions, like stroke or dementia.

Common causes for confusion can include, but are not limited to:

  • Concussion - This type of brain injury can affect co-ordination and speech. In some cases, confusion may not be experienced until a few days after the injury.
  • Dehydration - The inbalance of salts in the body resulting from dehydration can affect the ability of the body to function correctly
  • Medication - Some medications can cause confusion or alternatively not taking a medicine correctly could lead to the symptoms.

Other possible causes for confusion include:

  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Fever
  • Infection - particularly bladder infections
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Depression

Learn more about what can cause confusion.

How confusion can affect your day-to-day life

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing confusion, this can impact day to day life in a number of ways.

It could be that the confusion is making it hard for your or them to take care of yourself, or extra help may be needed.

Work tasks may become harder and relationships can become more difficult to maintain as symptoms progress.

Forgetfulness and disorientation can be a distressing symptom of confusion and may lead to feelings of isolation or depression.

Treatment Of Confusion Symptoms

The cause of the symptoms will depend on the treatment prescribed. The best way to get the right treatment is by speaking to a doctor. As soon as you recognise the symptoms either in yourself, or in someone else, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor. The earlier it’s treated, the better.

If the confusion is caused by another medical condition, it may require medication or another form of treatment, to resolve the underlying cause. When the initial medical problem is resolved or under control, the confusion symptoms may cease. However, in some cases, they could get worse. Getting treatment early can help slow down the progression.

Find out more about the treatment of confusion.