Health > Delirium vs Dementia – Symptoms, Causes, & Differences
21st Mar 2022

Delirium vs Dementia – Symptoms, Causes, & Differences

While caring for a loved one suffering from a mental disorder, it is essential to know the difference between Delirium and Dementia, two similar mental conditions. A caregiver should know the distinction between these two conditions to help doctors find the root cause of the problem and provide the right treatment.    

Delirium and Dementia both diseases, show similar symptoms, making them difficult to diagnose. In this article, we have deeply dissected both diseases to bring forth the differences. Do read this article to help your loved one get the right diagnosis.       

What is Delirium?  

Delirium (aka Acute Confusional State) is an immediate decline in cerebral functioning. It is a syndrome that revolves around consciousness, cognition, and disturbance in attention. A delirium patient may have trouble coping with everyday tasks. They may be unable to remember the things they did or were able to do in the past.  

Different types of Delirium produce different symptoms. The first stage of the illness tends to occur suddenly, and the symptoms get worse over time. Often, the onset of the symptoms occurs in the middle of the day, and they usually worsen during the evening, a condition known as sundowning.  

Fortunately, Delirium is a treatable acute condition, so it is best to know the symptoms, causes, and treatments. This information can help you help your loved one avoid the onset of this condition.  

Symptoms of Delirium 

Delirium itself is a sign of serious underlying illness; it does not surface overnight. Many symptoms of Delirium include a rapid, restless pulse, a distorted sense of time, and a lack of concentration. Moreover, a person may be confused because of the lack of awareness of what is happening around him. The most common symptom is a loss of concentration. In addition, they may not follow self-care instructions.  

There are various symptoms of Delirium. Symptoms of Delirium may range from a sleep-cycle disorder to a delusional state. These symptoms can go from feeling disoriented to having trouble moving around. Some patients may have difficulty talking or understanding words, while others may feel confused and struggle to swallow. Some patients experience dizziness and confusion. Nevertheless, the symptoms of Delirium are common in the medical setting. 

Causes of Delirium  

There are many possible causes of Delirium: prolonged exposure to anaesthesia or a high dose of opioid analgesics. In addition, decreased sensory stimulation during the night may also trigger Delirium in those at risk.  

Apart from that, consumption of common OTC and prescription medications such as digoxin, diphenhydramine, beta-blockers, antibiotics, heartburn controllers, and corticosteroids can cause this condition. Moreover, drug overdoses and alcohol misuse, and even hallucinogens can lead to Delirium.  

Almost any physical illness such as anaemia, liver disease, kidney failure, heart attack, and several other disorders can lead to Delirium. If someone is undergoing surgery, they may also develop Delirium. Taking an anticholinergic medication or a central nervous system depressant can also trigger Delirium. 

There are other causes of Delirium, including extreme sensory experiences, cerebrovascular haemorrhage, and brain tumours.   

What is Dementia?  

Dementia is a generic medical term used to describe mental conditions that affect cerebral functions such as thinking and memory. There are several types of dementia. The most common type is Alzheimer’s disease. Other types are related to vascular dementia; If the symptoms are caused by vascular disease, they are called mixed dementia.  

Since recovery takes a long time, one should prevent it anyhow. However, making a few conscious lifestyle changes early in your life can considerably reduce the risk of dementia. Getting more exercise and mental stimulation can also delay the onset of the signs and symptoms of dementia.  

Symptoms of Dementia  

Some common dementia disease symptoms include communication, planning, organisation, and navigation problems. Patients can also develop personality changes and psychiatric symptoms. If the person suffers from depression, hallucinations, or delusions, they should seek help as soon as possible. It is important to note that these symptoms are often a result of the disease, not the disease itself. In addition to the physical symptoms of dementia, patients with the disease may also experience psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and delusions. 

Causes of Dementia  

While there are many causes of dementia, the most common is age. The disease can affect people of any age and cause severe mental decline. Doctors can help with the diagnosis by performing a mental function test in some cases. This Dementia test can detect if the patient is thinking erratically or has other issues.   

Less physical activity increases the risk of dementia. Studies have found that people with diabetes and an unhealthy diet are at an increased risk of developing dementia. A healthy meal rich in whole grains, fruits, and nuts can reduce the risk of dementia. Drinking alcohol can damage the brain and can increase the risk of dementia. Those who consume excessive alcohol are at an increasingly higher risk of dementia. Cardiovascular diseases can also increase the risk of dementia. Moreover, obesity can increase the risk of developing the disease. 

Difference between Delirium and Dementia 

Although Delirium and dementia have similar symptoms, they are completely different illnesses. While they both present a decline in the cognitive and executive function of the brain, they are two separate diseases.  

There are some significant differences between Delirium and Dementia. A person with Delirium often has disturbing memories that persist for months. During this time, they may also feel anxiety and fear. It can lead to an increase in stress and anxiety in the patient. During this time, the person may not express themselves verbally.  

Dementia patients do not show any signs in the early stages. Patients may have trouble remembering familiar places, driving routes, or following stories. They may also feel dispassionate and forget familiar faces.   

Hallucinations are common in patients with dementia. They are scary and upsetting, and you should try to avoid any stressful situations and let them rest. 

Read AlsoWhat is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s? 

Wrap Up  

Both Delirium and Dementia are serious conditions that limit seniors’ ability to lead a normal life and turn them increasingly dependent on help and assistance. To help them continue enjoying life and aid their families, Emoha provides extensive care for seniors with Delirium and Dementia. This includes providing 24/7 emergency support, medical assistance, counselling, access to special attendants, one-place management of all medical histories & their treatment courses, daily reminders and much more through the Emoha App. Emoha helps manage the ailments arising from these degenerative medical conditions and delays their further progression as part of the senior welfare services. Download the Emoha App here, or from your 

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Dementia Diaries – Managing Life with DementiaDEMENTIA CARE PLAN FOR ELDERLY

 Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to differentiate Delirium and Dementia for physicians and radiologists?

Often these medical conditions are mistakenly diagnosed since both are quite similar. Knowing the distinction between the two will help health workers properly diagnose and provide the right treatment.

What are the three different types of Delirium?

According to neurologists, there are three different types of Delirium, which are:   
Hyperactive Delirium – Patient becomes restless, agitated and followed by rapid mood swings   
Hypoactive Delirium – Patient becomes sluggish, inactive drowsy   
Mixed Delirium – Shows symptoms of Hyperactive and Hypoactive   

What is the best diagnostic test for differentiating between Delirium and dementia effectively?

To diagnose Delirium and Dementia effectively, doctors should employ the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) and the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM).