Altered Mental State

What is Altered Mental State or status?

An altered mental status (AMS) isn’t a specific disease. It’s a change in mental function that stems from illnesses, disorders and injuries affecting your brain. It leads to changes in awareness, movement, and behaviors.

What are the types of altered mental status?

There are three types:

  • Delirium occurs suddenly and is a medical emergency. A person with delirium may act disoriented, be distracted and exhibit unusual behaviors. This type of AMS is reversible.
  • Dementia is a progressive disorder causing a decline in mental function that affects daily life. It primarily affects older adults. In advanced stages, a person loses awareness of their identity and surroundings.
  • Psychosis, due to a medical condition or medication, is a temporary condition in which a person loses touch with reality. They may experience disturbing thoughts, as well as sights and sounds that aren’t real.


What are the causes of altered mental status?

In people with dementia, progressive mental decline is the natural course of the disease.

A sudden altered mental status, such as delirium and psychosis, can be due to issues with nearly any organ system. Potential causes include:

  • Central nervous system issues
  • Brain bleed (hemorrhage)
  • Brain tumor
  • Hepatic encephalopathy.
  • Obstructive hydrocephalus, is fluid build-up in your brain that increases pressure in your skull.
  • Seizure
  • Stroke


Metabolic disorders

  • Dehydration.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Low blood oxygen (hypoxemia)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Low sodium levels in the blood (hyponatremia)
  • Low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia)
  • Under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism)


Adverse reactions to prescription drugs

  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Anticholinergics, a group of drugs that control involuntary muscle movements
  • Corticosteroids
  • Sedatives, which help you relax
  • Sleeping pills




Other causes


What to Expect

When you visit iCare, our team of exceptional and experienced physicians will immediately assess your situation, employ life-saving intervention as needed, assess your medical history and provide a physical examination.  Your care team, lead by experience ER Physicians may perform further laboratory tests. Once you are diagnosed, a treatment plan will be provided based on the severity of your condition and symptoms. In the event that a patient requires hospitalization or other procedures that we do not offer at iCare, we are able to transfer them to a hospital for admission.