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Although both delirium and dementia exhibit similar symptoms, the two are distinct conditions which require different forms of treatment and understanding.

Dementia.orgPublished On July 02, 2015

Although delirium and dementia do feature very similar symptoms, the two conditions are distinct, and each requiresa different approach to treatmentand understanding. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but its important toknow which one is presentin order to provide the patient with the most effective treatment.

Delirium and dementia aretightly related, though distinct, and often the two terms are confused in common usage. In fact, dementia is often aroot cause in the manifestation of delirium,along with other contributing causes like electrolyte disorders; severe infections of the lungs, liver, heart, kidney or brain, prescription drug use and an unfamiliar environment.

Symptoms common in both delirium and dementia include:

Difficulty solving complex problems

Irritability and sometimes aggressiveness

Difficulty or complications when attempting to form new memories

There areno clear diagnostic teststo verify the presence of delirium, so acknowledgment relies solely on clinical observations. Before a patient is diagnosed with dementia,delirium must be ruled outas the condition.

Deliriumis aneuropsychiatric conditionthat occurs acutely, rather than chronically, sometimes for only hours at a time. Whereas dementia is almost always irreversible, and features a steady cognitive decline as the condition progresses, delirium is not a chronic impairment, and its acute manifestations can beeffectively controlled.

Delirium is also unique for itssevere disorganized thought.This usually leads to a period of inattention or distraction, making the individual unable to focus on tasks. While dementia also features a poor level of focus and concentration, the difference is that deliriumslack of focus stems from rapidly processed thoughts,rather than the stifled ability to conduct thought.

It is estimated thatmore than half of all cases of delirium are missed,mistaken for unrelated conditions, or eclipsed by the presence of dementia (in other words, dementia patients may develop delirium, but caregivers think the worsening in their symptoms is related to the typical progression of dementia).

If not acknowledged, a patient could be thought to solely have dementia, and be denied valuable treatment options that couldimprove the condition.

Much like dementia, delirium can beeffectively managedthrough both pharmaceutical means and behavioral and cognitive techniques. However, since delirium can sometimes beaffected by the intake of too many prescription drugs,it is crucial that types and dosages be heavily monitored. If delirium is mistaken for dementia, a patient may be prescribed more medication that can make the onset of deliriummore frequent and more intense.

Other effective treatments for delirium includefamiliarizing an environment and establishing quietnessas much as possible. While orientation is sometimes used in patients with dementia, delirium features these treatments as a higher priority, and these options can be overlooked if a patient is not accurately diagnosed.

Dementia and delirium are very similar, but delirium is an acute condition that can be aggravated by an overuse of prescription medication. By closely observing the exact symptoms, you can differentiate between the two conditions and see that accurate treatment is administered.

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