Confusion, Memory Loss, and Altered Alertness
It is not unusual to occasionally forget where you put your keys or glasses, where you parked your car, or the name of an acquaintance. As you age, it may take you longer to remember things. Not all older adults have memory changes, but they can be a normal part of aging. This type of memory problem is more often annoying than serious.
Memory loss that begins suddenly or that significantly interferes with your ability to function in daily life may mean a more serious problem is present.
Confusion or decreased alertness may be the first symptom of a serious illness, particularly in older adults. Health problems that cause confusion or decreased alertness can include:
Alcohol and many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause confusion or decreased alertness. These problems may develop from:
Other causes of confusion or decreased alertness can include:
Conditions in the environment that can cause changes in the level of consciousness include:
Many times other symptoms are present, such as a fever, chest pain, or the inability to walk or stand. It is important to look for and tell your doctor about other symptoms you experience when confusion or decreased alertness occurs. This can help your doctor determine the cause of your symptoms.
A decrease in alertness may progress to loss of consciousness. A person who loses consciousness is not awake and is not aware of his or her surroundings. Fainting (syncope) is a form of brief unconsciousness. Coma is a deep, prolonged state of unconsciousness.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
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