Loss of consciousness - Symptoms, causes and treatment

Decreased consciousness is a condition when a person is less or unable to respond to any stimuli. This condition can be caused by fatigue, injury, illness, or side effects of medications.

Awareness itself is a condition when a person can provide an appropriate response to the environment and people around him. Awareness is also characterized by a person's understanding of who he is, where he lives, and at that time.

When a person's consciousness decreases, his ability to respond will decrease, so he will find it difficult to recognize himself, other people, place, and time.

Loss of consciousness is different from fainting. Fainting only lasts for a while and the person who experiences it will be fully aware afterward, while the loss of consciousness can occur for a longer time, it can even take years.

Type Loss of 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 such as:

  • Speak not clearly
  • Often silent for a long time when talking
  • Does not recognize the time and place he is
  • Forget about the work in progress

2. Delirium

Delirium is a decrease in 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.

3. Lethargy

Lethargy is a decrease in consciousness that causes sufferers to feel extremely tired, both physically and mentally. A person who has lethargy may experience the following symptoms:

  • Heavy sleepiness
  • Decreased level of alertness
  • Difficulty remembering, thinking, or concentrating
  • Emotional disturbances, such as easily sad or angry

4. Stupor

Stupor or obtundation is a decrease in consciousness that causes a person to be completely unable to respond to conversations. A person experiencing stupor can only respond to physical stimuli, such as pinching or scratching that causes pain.

5. Coma

Coma is a condition when a person experiences total loss of consciousness. A person who is in a coma is medically alive, but is unable to move, think, and cannot respond to any stimuli, including pain.

Coma is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Causes of Decreased Consciousness

Decreased consciousness can be caused by many things, ranging from illness, injury, poisoning, to the side effects of drugs. Below are various causes of loss of consciousness.

Examples of disorders or diseases of the brain that can cause loss of consciousness:

  • Epilepsy
  • Brain infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dementia
  • Brain tumor
  • stroke

Examples of disorders of the heart and breathing that can cause loss of consciousness:

  • Lung disease
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain for any 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
  • Accident while diving or near drowning
  • heat stroke, namely a drastic increase in body temperature
  • Hypothermia or 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
  • Medication 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 disturbance
  • Kidney failure
  • heart failure
  • Shock

Symptoms of Decreased Consciousness

Symptoms of loss of consciousness vary widely, depending on the severity. Symptoms that can appear due to decreased consciousness include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Difficult to walk
  • Lost balance
  • Easy to fall
  • Difficulty controlling urination and defecation
  • Weakness in the legs and face
  • Head dizzy
  • Heart beat
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Faint

When to go to the doctor

Immediately consult a doctor if you experience the above symptoms, especially if the symptoms appear suddenly, have a history of certain diseases, are taking drugs, have experienced an injury, or have recently been exposed to chemical compounds.

Call the hospital's emergency department immediately if someone around you has signs of delirium, stupor, or coma. This condition is a medical emergency that must be treated quickly.

Diagnosis of Loss of Consciousness

The doctor will start the diagnosis by asking the patient or people who are with the patient when the loss of consciousness occurs. Questions asked by doctors include:

  • When, how, and how long does the loss of consciousness occur?
  • Symptoms or signs that appear
  • Previous history of loss of consciousness
  • History of illness and head injury
  • Drugs that are being consumed or used
  • Sleep pattern

After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination and examination of nerve function. Inspection Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) It may also be done by the doctor to ensure the patient's level of consciousness. The doctor will also run a number of supporting examinations, such as:

  • Complete blood count, to detect anemia or infection
  • Examination of electrolyte levels, to determine 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 toxins 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 (ECG), to check the electrical activity of the heart
  • Chest X-ray, to check the condition of the heart and lungs
  • Scanning with MRI or CT scan of the head, to detect if there are abnormalities in the structure of the head and brain

Decreased Consciousness Treatment

Treatment of loss of consciousness depends on the cause. In the loss of consciousness caused by the side effects of drugs, the doctor will prescribe a replacement drug. Meanwhile, if the cause of the loss of 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, the doctor can give medication or therapy to relieve symptoms and help the patient to be able to move.

Complications of Loss of Consciousness

Decreased consciousness that is not treated immediately can become more severe and make the sufferer unable to carry out normal activities. In serious cases, untreated loss of consciousness can progress to coma and even cause brain damage.

Prevention of Loss of Consciousness

The causes of loss of consciousness are very diverse. Therefore, it is difficult to completely prevent this condition from occurring.

The best way that can be done is to immediately see a doctor if you are or have ever experienced a decrease in consciousness. Loss of consciousness experienced can be caused by a very serious medical condition.

The sooner the cause of the loss of consciousness is detected and identified, the better the chances of curing it. If the examination and treatment is delayed, the condition can get worse and can persist.