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Altered Mental Status

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What is altered mental status?

Altered mental status (AMS) is a disruption in how your brain works that causes a change in behavior. This change can happen suddenly or over days. AMS ranges from slight confusion to total disorientation and increased sleepiness to coma.

What causes AMS?

AMS can be caused by physical, psychological, and environmental factors. In older adults, AMS may be caused by a combination of these factors. The following are some of the most common causes of AMS:

What factors increase the risk for AMS?

What are the signs and symptoms of AMS?

You, or those close to you, will notice changes in how you think and in your awareness, movements, and routines. The following are some of the more common signs:

How is AMS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and ask you and your family about your usual mental status. The provider will want know if the changes happened suddenly or over time. Tell the provider about recent events, such as falls or other traumas or illnesses. Witnesses may be asked about your behavior. Your provider will ask about the medicines you take and any problems with substance misuse. You may also need the following tests to learn the cause of your AMS:

How is AMS treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your AMS. Treatments with oxygen and medicines may be needed to improve your symptoms. You may be placed in the hospital if your symptoms are severe.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

When should I or someone close to me contact my healthcare provider?

When should I or someone close to me seek immediate care?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.