Medical problems that affect your brain often keep you from being wide awake and thinking clearly. You may be affected only a little or a whole lot, ranging from being:
Slightly less alert than normal
Confused and not making much sense
Sleepy and hard to arouse
What is stupor?
Stupor is when you appear asleep or very sleepy, like you've passed out. You wake up a little if people yell at you or shake or pinch you. But after they stop doing that, you fall back asleep.
It's not considered stupor if you're just tired and sleepy from having been awake too long.
What is a coma?
Coma is when you're unconscious and can't be woken up, no matter what people try.
What causes stupor or coma?
Causes of stupor and coma are very similar, and include:
Bodywide problems such as:
Very low blood sugar Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar drops too low. Blood sugar is your body's main source of fuel, so low blood sugar causes problems. Hypoglycemia causes hunger, sweating, shakiness, and... read more or very high blood sugar Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more levels
Brain problems such as:
What are the symptoms of stupor or coma?
With stupor, the main symptoms are:
Looking asleep and being very difficult to awaken
When awake, not answering questions or not making sense
Falling back asleep when not being stimulated
With coma, people are unconscious and:
Don't wake up with any stimulation
Sometimes have unusual breathing (such as irregular or too fast or slow)
Sometimes have abnormalities of their eyes, such as bigger or smaller pupils, eyes that aren't moving, or eyes that are moving in strange ways
How can doctors tell if a person is in a stupor or coma?
Doctors can tell someone is in a stupor or coma by examining the person.
To find the cause of stupor or coma, doctors do tests, such as:
Urine (pee) tests
CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more (computed tomography) or MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more (magnetic resonance imaging) of the head
EEG Electroencephalography (EEG) Brain waves are electrical signals your brain makes. Your brain is always making electrical signals, even when you're asleep. Certain brain problems such as seizures cause changes in your brain... read more (electroencephalography—a painless test that records the brain’s electrical activity)
How do doctors treat stupor and coma?
People need to be in the hospital, usually in an intensive care unit (ICU). They often need:
A heart and blood pressure monitor
Oxygen or a breathing tube
Fluids and medicine directly into a vein (IV)
Doctors will treat what caused the stupor or coma. Treatments may include:
Antidotes for drugs or poisons
Antibiotics for an infection
Brain surgery for blood or fluid build-up around the brain
Patients who remain in a coma require supportive care, such as:
A feeding tube for water and food
Frequently turning the person's body to prevent pressure sores Pressure Sores Pressure sores, often called bedsores, are skin injuries caused by steady pressure on one area of skin. The pressure cuts off blood flow to the area, which can damage the skin. Pressure sores... read more and blood clots How Blood Clots A blood clot is a clump of material that your body makes to plug up a bleeding blood vessel. Blood clots look like dark purple jelly. Clots are made up of things in your bloodstream: Platelets... read more
Frequently moving the person's arms and legs to prevent stiffening of muscles (contractures)
A tube (catheter) in the bladder to drain urine
Eye drops to keep the person's eyes from drying out
How people do depends on what caused the coma. Some problems go away, and the person recovers completely. Other people wake up but have some brain damage and don't return to normal. People who have severe brain damage may stay in a coma. A few enter into a vegetative state Vegetative State A vegetative state is when people with brain damage appear to be awake but don't do any purposeful actions or respond to what's going on around them. A person in a vegetative state has basic... read more .