Decreased consciousness is a condition when a person is less or unable to respond to any stimulus. This condition can be caused by fatigue, injury, illness, or a side effect of medication.
Awareness itself is a condition when a person can provide an appropriate response to the environment and people around him. Consciousness is also marked by a person's understanding of who he is, where he lives, and the time at that time.
When a person's awareness decreases, his ability to respond will decrease, so that he will find it difficult to recognize himself, other people, places and time.
Loss of consciousness is different from fainting . Fainting only lasts temporarily and the person who experiences it will be fully aware afterward, while the loss of consciousness can occur for a longer time, even for years.
Types of Decreased Consciousness
Based on the severity, loss of consciousness can be divided into:
1. Confusion ( confusion )
Confusion or disorientation is a decrease in consciousness that makes it difficult for a person to think clearly and make decisions. A person who is confused may show signs of:
- Talking is not clear
- Often silent for a long time when talking
- Lack of recognition of time and place
- Forget about the work in progress
Delirium is a loss of consciousness caused by a sudden disturbance of brain function. People with delirium can experience disturbances in thinking, behaving, and paying attention to the conditions around them. Delirium can also cause emotional disturbances, such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia .
Lethargy is a decrease in consciousness that causes the sufferer to feel extremely tired, both physically and mentally. A person who is lethargic may experience the following symptoms:
- Heavy sleepiness
- Decreased level of alertness
- Difficulty remembering, thinking, or concentrating
- Emotional disturbances, such as being easily sad or angry
Stupor or obtundation is a decrease in consciousness that causes a person to be completely unable to respond to conversation. A person experiencing stupor can only respond to physical stimulation, such as pinching or scratching which causes pain.
Coma is a condition when a person experiences a total loss of consciousness. A person who is in a coma is medically alive, but cannot move, think, and cannot respond to any stimulus, including pain.
Coma is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Causes of Decreased Consciousness
Loss of consciousness can be caused by many things, ranging from illness, injury, poisoning, to side effects of drugs. Below are various causes of loss of consciousness.
Examples of disorders or diseases of the brain that can cause a decrease in consciousness:
- Brain infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis
- Alzheimer's disease
- Brain tumor
Examples of disorders of the heart and breathing that can cause loss of consciousness:
- Lung disease
- Lack of oxygen to the brain for whatever reason
- Heart rhythm disturbances
- Heart failure
Examples of injuries or accidents that can result in loss of consciousness:
- Head injury, for example from an accident or fight
- Accidents while diving or near drowning
- Heat stroke , which is a drastic increase in body temperature
- Hypothermia or a drastic drop in body temperature
Examples of drugs and chemical compounds that can cause loss of consciousness:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Toxic gases, heavy metals or other hazardous compounds
- Drugs to treat seizures, depression, and psychosis
Other things that can cause loss of consciousness:
- Severe fatigue or lack of sleep
- Thyroid hormone levels are too low or too high
- Blood sugar levels that are too low or too high
- Blood pressure that is too low or too high
- Electrolyte disturbances
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
Symptoms of Decreased Consciousness
Symptoms of decreased consciousness vary, depending on the severity. Symptoms that can arise due to decreased consciousness include:
- Excessive sweating
- Hard to walk
- Lost balance
- It's easy to fall
- Difficulty controlling urination and defecation
- Weakness in the limbs and face, even causing the tongue to be swallowed
- Head firefly
- Heart pounding
When to see a doctor
Immediately check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms above, especially if the symptoms appear suddenly, have a history of certain diseases, are taking medication, have experienced an injury, or have recently been exposed to chemical compounds.
Immediately contact the hospital emergency department if anyone around you has signs of delirium, stupor, or coma. This condition is a medical emergency that must be treated quickly.
Diagnosis of Impairment of Consciousness
The doctor will start the diagnosis by asking the patient or the person who was with the patient when the loss of consciousness occurred. Questions asked by doctors include:
- When, how, and how long did the loss of consciousness occur
- Symptoms or signs that appear
- History of previous loss of consciousness
- History of illness and head injury
- Drugs currently being consumed or used
- Sleep patterns
After that, the doctor will carry out a physical examination and examination of nerve function. The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) examination may also be carried out by the doctor to determine the patient's level of consciousness. The doctor will also carry out a number of supporting examinations, such as:
- Complete blood count , to detect anemia or infection
- Examination of electrolyte levels, to find out the possibility of electrolyte disturbances in the blood
- Test blood and urine samples, to detect the presence and levels of drugs (both legal and illegal) or poisons in the patient's body
- Liver function test , to determine the condition of the liver
- Electroencephalogram (EEG), to check the brain's electrical activity
- Electrocardiogram (EKG), to check the electrical activity of the heart
- Chest X-ray, to check the condition of the heart and lungs
- Scanning with an MRI or CT scan of the head, to detect whether there are abnormalities in the structure of the head and brain
Treatment of loss of consciousness depends on the cause. In decreased consciousness caused by side effects of drugs, the doctor will prescribe replacement drugs. Meanwhile, if the cause of decreased consciousness is a head injury, the doctor may need to perform surgery immediately.
Please note, not all causes of decreased consciousness can be overcome, for example, decreased consciousness caused by Alzheimer's disease . However, doctors can provide drugs or therapy to relieve symptoms and help patients to be active.
Complications of Decreased Consciousness
Decreased consciousness that is not treated immediately can become more severe and make the sufferer unable to move normally. In serious cases, loss of consciousness that is not treated can develop into coma and even cause damage to the brain.
Prevention of Declining Consciousness
The causes of decreased consciousness are very diverse. Therefore, it is difficult to completely prevent this condition from occurring.
The best way to do is to immediately see a doctor if you are or have ever experienced a decrease in consciousness. The loss of consciousness experienced can be caused by a very serious medical condition.
The sooner the cause of decreased consciousness is detected and known, the greater the chance of being cured. If inspection and treatment are carried out late, the condition can get worse and can settle down.