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What causes acute delirium?

Delirium is considered a medical emergency, in part because it's often the main expression of a sudden, life-threatening infection or illness. Hospitalization or recovery from surgery often precipitates delirium in older people. In fact, research shows 6% to 56% of older adults may experience it while hospitalized. Other possible causes include insufficient oxygen due to respiratory problems, extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), undetected infections, and heart problems. Even a simple urinary tract infection might be a culprit.

In people of any age, alcohol withdrawal syndrome presents the classic picture of delirium. Similarly, delirium can occur from abrupt withdrawal from benzodiazepines, a group of anti-anxiety drugs that includes diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), or stem from taking multiple medications to treat co-existing health problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.