Coma

Coma patient icu

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What Is Coma?

In common parlance, the word ‘coma’ is often used loosely when speaking of anyone who is unconscious. This is inaccurate. For instance, if a person has fainted from weakness, then they are unconscious but not comatose. If they can be easily revived within a short while, their state of unconsciousness is temporary and short-lived. Coma, on the other hand, is defined as a deep state of unconsciousness over a prolonged period of time. This may range from a few days to some weeks.

Coma is considered a medical emergency. Even though the person appears completely inert, their brain still preserves essential bodily functions such as breathing. However, they will certainly need external support for feeding. A patient in a coma will have to be placed in intensive care until they emerge from the comatose state.

 

Under What Conditions Do Patients Descend Into Coma?

Coma patient icuThere can be a variety of causes for coma. Often, it is caused by severe head trauma, medical problems, and even illicit drugs. The common factor is damage to the brain. Here is a list of possible causes of coma:

  • This may happen accidentally or as a result of violence.
  • Drug or alcohol overdose.
  • Stroke.
  • Meningitis.
  • Encephalitis.
  • Cardiac arrest.
  • Accumulation of toxins such as carbon dioxide or urea. These outcomes may occur as a result of illnesses related to the kidneys or liver.
  • Multiple seizures.
  • Tumors.
  • Eclampsia.
  • Asphyxiation and oxygen deprivation.
  • Extremely high or low blood sugar levels. Hence, patients with severe untreated diabetes may go into a coma.

 

What Are The Signs Of Coma?

What does it mean to be ‘fully conscious’? When we are conscious, we are capable of sensing stimuli and responding to them. We are aware of ourselves and our surroundings. We are able to think, speak, listen, eat, move around, etc. Of course, a person who is paralyzed is also conscious even if they are not fully mobile. Generally, though, a conscious person is in control of his or her bodies and thoughts and is aware. Most importantly, the brain is active.

In a person who is comatose, all of these indicators of consciousness are absent. Here is a list of specific indications to clearly break down what it means when we say that someone is comatose:

  • They appear to be asleep but cannot be awoken.
  • The person is unresponsive to stimuli. For instance, the pupils do not contract when exposed to light.
  • Yet, the patient is capable of reflex actions.
  • Vital physiological functions are still on. For instance, the patient continues to breathe, but their breathing may be irregular.
  • Some patients may need artificial respiratory support.
  • He or she cannot speak.
  • He or she may make some sounds and exhibit movement, all the while continuing to remain comatose.
  • Some patients claim to retain memories of events or conversations that took place in their presence while they were comatose.

 

Are There Different Types Of Coma?

Coma patientComa is often used interchangeably with a variety of other terms, each of which has a very specific meaning in a specific context.

It is important to distinguish the ordinary usage of the term ‘coma’ from the term ‘medically induced coma’. The latter is applicable only in a specific context. A medically induced coma, as the name suggests, is one that is actively and deliberately induced in the patient for the purpose of promoting healing. This is done by administering a controlled dose of drugs like barbiturates so that the patient becomes fully unconscious. In such a state, the patient’s brain is put to rest temporarily in order to control or prevent brain damage and to save the patient from experiencing severe pain.

Medically induced coma is never employed as the first line of treatment. In fact, it is nearly always considered a last resort. Unlike the other type of coma that occurs as a result of severe trauma or disease progression, a medically induced coma is controlled by the medical team, maintained for a specific period of time and it is fully reversible without detriment to the body. In fact, as we have just seen, it can be actively therapeutic and beneficial.

When someone is comatose, their brain has not completely shut down. However, it is operating at the bare minimum capacity necessary to keep the person alive. This is distinct from brain death in which the brain has totally shut down. Brain death is irreversible and the patient cannot be revived. On the other hand, coma is entirely reversible.

A person who is comatose for a period of time longer than a few weeks is considered to be in a vegetative state. This may also be considered as a form of coma, only on a longer timescale.

 

What Are Some Potential Complications?

There can be a wide variety of secondary problems as a result of coma, even when the patient is placed in intensive care. For instance, prolonged immobility may produce bed sores. It also increases the likelihood of conditions like deep vein thrombosis which can be fatal if not recognized and treated in time. Additionally, the patient’s body is more susceptible to infection. In extreme cases, the patient may actually die. However, death in such instances is not so much a result of the coma itself as the underlying problem that led to it in the first place.

Diagnosis, treatment, & management

Coma brainA patient may be brought in comatose or they may descend into a coma while already undergoing treatment for a severe illness. Doctors use a tool known as the Glasgow Coma Scale in order to measure a person’s level of consciousness. A score of eight or lower on the Glasgow Coma Scale is taken to mean that the person is comatose. The reason for coma may be immediately apparent as in the case of traumatic injuries or severe accidents. A series of other investigations such as imaging tests and blood tests would also be necessary in order to establish the condition of the organs and to identify other possible causes of coma such as tumors.

The patient will be placed in intensive care and may need artificial respiratory support. Their vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature must be monitored constantly. As long as the patient remains comatose, they will need external help for feeding. Medications can help to prevent infections.

It is not easy to predict how long the coma will last. Treatment cannot help to revive a patient from the comatose state. However, patients can and do emerge from their coma on their own. The patient could go back to being entirely normal or just the way they were prior to becoming comatose.

Emerging from a state of coma is a gradual process. The patient gradually revives and their degree of consciousness may improve step by step. The patient may display signs of confusion initially but as they improve they will gradually be able to grasp the situation with more clarity. They may continue to face some difficulties such as limitations in mobility as well as the inability to speak normally or recall certain memories. Such patients will need physical therapy, occupational therapy or both.

Coma is a severe condition that results from brain damage or injury through infection, chronic illness or injury. It is characterized by a deep state of unconsciousness in which the patient appears to be sleeping but cannot be roused until they emerge from the coma on their own. The aim of treatment is to support bodily functions such as breathing and to prevent infections and various other complications.

Some studies have shown that even though the patient is externally unresponsive, they may benefit from having friends or family talking to them, holding their hands or playing music for them. Some patients who have recovered from the comatose state assert that they retain memories of such conversations or events taking place around them. The process of recovery is gradual and while some patients return to complete normalcy, others may need support in the form of physical therapy and occupational therapy to help them regain full normal range of movement and even speech or memory.

 

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • To overcome the disability rendered by the trauma to the brain the individual must refer to occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
  • It is impossible to accurately determine how long a coma will last how good will be the quality of recovery.
  • To facilitate normal breathing, a ventilator should be administered to the comatose individual.
Don'ts
  • Keep the comatose patient in stationary for long periods of time. A person in a state of coma should be moved around a bit (it is mostly done by nurses) to prevent the development of bed sores.
  • Attempt to take care of the coma patient at home. A complete care of a comatose patient at home is impractical, expensive, and unsafe.

 

 

 

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Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Erythritol: A healthy sugar substitute or yet another marketing ploy? Erythritol is a popular choice of a healthy alternative sweetening agent in foods. But how healthy can a…
Gua sha: Scraping away layers of pain with this ancient healing tool Gua sha is an ancient oriental healing method which focuses on scraping the body with specific tools to…
SIBO Diet: The important dos and don’ts of this gut-healing diet A SIBO diet is a diet that works by eliminating certain sugars from your diet and adding fibers…
AUTOIMMUNE HEPATITIS liver
Hepatitis Profile A hepatitis profile or a hepatitis panel is a blood test that checks for markers of hepatitis infection…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
CERULOPLASMIN- triple marker
Triple Marker Test A triple marker test is an important prenatal test that is performed to detect the presence of chromosomal…
biopsy procedure
Biopsy Biopsy is a procedure of studying a live tissue sample collected from a specific organ for diagnosing a…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
10 reasons why you should up your selenium intake Selenium, though a trace mineral, is very much integral to your health. Find out how much selenium intake…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
What is the right way to take a pregnancy test? A pregnancy test is undertaken to determine if you have conceived. A home pregnancy test is the most…
Vagus nerve: 7 health benefits of stimulating the “gut-brain” connection As a matter of fact, there are two vagus nerves namely the left and the right but is…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
Hysteroscopy_procedure
Hysteroscopy Hysteroscopy is a minimally invasive tool to help specialists view the uterus to diagnose and even treat several…
hemoglobin variant analysis
Hemoglobin Variant Analysis Hemoglobin variant analysis is a blood test that is used to detect the presence of hemoglobin variants which…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
fructosamine test
Fructosamine Test A fructosamine test measures blood sugar glucose content. Fructosamine level can indicate blood sugar level in past 2-3…
thyroxine t4 test
T4 (Thyroxine) Hormone Test The T4 or thyroxine blood test is an important diagnostic tool that gives a clear picture of how…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
Moringa drink
Moringa: This could be the most nutrient-dense food known to us! Moringa is a lush green tree brimming with over 90 essential nutrients required for a healthy mind and…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
Exercises or diet? Find out the healthiest way to gain weight Tired of being called skinny all the time? Looking for healthy ways to beef up? Why not try…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
Psyllium Husk: More than just an effective natural laxative Psyllium husk, or isabgol, is a popular natural laxative . But did you in addition to regulating bowels,…
Carb Cycling: Weighing the pros vs the cons of this diet routine Completely discarding carbs from your life will do you more harm than good. Read more about carb cycling,…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
Appendix pain: Recent findings on this not-so vestigial organ The exact function of the appendix is still not clear. Some consider it as an organ that once…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
anti-chlamydia antibody tets
Anti-Chlamydia Antibody -IgG Test Anti-Chlamydia Antibody - IgG test is performed by collection of urine or genital fluids as sample for testing…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
lipase test
Lipase Test A lipase test is a blood test performed to quantitatively measure the level of the enzyme lipase in…
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…

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