Decreased alertness is a state of reduced awareness.
A coma is a state of decreased alertness from which a patient cannot be awakened. A long-term coma is called a vegetative state.
Stuporous; Mental status – decreased; Loss of alertness; Decreased consciousness; Changes in consciousness; Obtundation; Coma; Unresponsiveness
Many conditions can cause decreased alertness, including:
Chronic kidney disease
Extreme tiredness or lack of sleep
High blood sugarlevel or low blood sugarlevel
High or low blood sodium (body chemical, or electrolyte) concentration
Infection that is severe or involves the brain
Thyroid conditions that cause
low thyroid hormone levelsor very high thyroid hormone levels
Brain disorders or injury, such as:
Dementiaor Alzheimer’s disease
Injury or accidents, such as:
Diving accidents and near drowning
Very low body temperature (
Heart or breathing problems, such as:
Abnormal heart rhythm (
Lack of oxygen (
hypoxia) from any cause
Low blood pressure(hypotension)
Severe lung diseases
high blood pressure
Toxins and drugs, such as:
Alcohol abuse (binge drinking or damage from long-term alcohol use)
Exposure to heavy metals, hydrocarbons, or toxic gases
Overuse of drugs such as opiates, narcotics, sedatives, and anti-anxiety or seizure medications
Side effect of almost any medicine, such as those used to treat seizures, depression, psychosis, and other illnesses
Get medical help for any decrease in consciousness, even when it is due to
See the article on
Persons with epilepsy or other seizure disorder should carry a Medic-Alert bracelet or pendant describing their condition. They should avoid situations that have triggered a seizure in the past.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Get medical help if someone has decreased alertness that cannot be explained. Call your local emergency number (such as 911) if normal alertness does not return quickly.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Most often, a person with decreased consciousness will be evaluated in an emergency room.
The doctor will perform a
The health care team will ask questions about the person’s medical history and symptoms, including:
- When did the decreased alertness happen?
- How long did it last?
- Has it ever happened before? If so, how many times?
- Did the person behave the same way during past episodes?
- Does the person have epilepsy or a seizure disorder?
- Does the person have
- Has the person been sleeping well?
- Has there been a recent head injury?
- What medications does the person take?
- Does the person use alcohol or drugs on a regular basis?
- What other symptoms are present?
Tests that may be done include:
Chest x-ray Complete blood countor blood differential CT scan or MRI of the head
- Electrocardiogram (
- Electroencephalogram (
- Electrolyte panel and liver function tests
- Toxicology panel and alcohol level
Treatment depends on the cause of the decreased alertness. How well a person does depends on the cause of the condition. The longer the person has had decreased alertness, the worse the outcome.
Related:Concussion – child – discharge, Concussion – adults – discharge, Preventing head injuries in children, Seizures, Epilepsy, Central nervous system, Head injury – first aid, Shock, Skin discoloration – bluish, Unconsciousness – first aid, Alcoholism and alcohol abuse, Fainting