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The types, symptoms, and diagnosis of coma: An Overview

A coma is a protracted state of unconsciousness that can be brought on by a number of conditions, including a brain tumor, a stroke, a catastrophic head injury, drug or alcohol intoxication, or even an underlying ailment like diabetes or an infection.


A coma is a medical emergency. Life and brain function must be preserved with immediate action. In order to identify the coma's underlying cause and start the appropriate course of treatment, doctors typically run a battery of blood tests and a brain scan.


Very Few people remain in a coma for more than a few weeks. Longer periods of unconsciousness have the potential to lead to brain death or a permanent vegetative state.



  • Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy: This severe brain dysfunction disorder is characterized by confusion and/or delirium. Usually, the illness is curable. Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy can be caused by a variety of factors. Systemic diseases, sepsis, insect bite, drug intoxication, organ failure, and other ailments are among them.
  • Persistent vegetative state: This is a profoundly unconscious state. The person is unable to move on their own and is ignorant of their surroundings. A person in a persistent vegetative state may awaken, but they won't have any higher cognitive abilities. There are breathing cycles and sleep-wake cycles in a chronic vegetative state.
  • Medically induced: This kind of brief coma, is used to prevent brain swelling following damage and to promote the body's natural healing process. A controlled amount of an anesthetic is administered to the patient, causing a lack of sensation or awareness. Doctors then keep a tight eye on the patient's vital signs. Only hospital intensive care units experience this.



When a person fits certain prerequisites and has persisted in a condition of diminished consciousness, such as:

  • Closed eyes
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Not able to breathe himself
  • No limb response other than reflexes(basic)
  • There is no reaction to pain other than reflexes


Coma patients may still be able to swallow and cough on their own.


People who are in comas rarely breathe on their own, but mostly they require the assistance of a machine, such as a ventilator.




When a patient is experiencing loss of consciousness, a medical professional will conduct a thorough examination of their body, inquiring about recent life changes, medical history, and drug use. The examination may involve checking reflexes, muscle tone, blood pressure, heart rhythm, breathing patterns, and pupil size, as well as assessing the person's sensitivity to unpleasant stimuli.


To evaluate the severity of the symptoms, the clinician may use a scale like the Glasgow Coma Scale to track changes over time and determine whether the patient's level of consciousness is improving, stabilizing, or declining. In addition, several tests may be performed, including urinalysis, blood count, thyroid and liver function, electrolyte levels, blood sugar levels, carbon monoxide poisoning, drug overdose, alcohol overdose, and tests for viruses that affect the neurological system.


Brain scans such as computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electroencephalography (EEG) may also be used to identify affected regions and scan for tumors, stroke indicators, stroke symptoms, and seizure activity.


The course of treatment for a coma depends on the cause. Information from family and friends can be helpful in identifying the origin of the condition, and treatment may involve antibiotics for a brain infection, glucose for diabetic shock, or surgery to remove a tumor or reduce brain swelling. Medication may be prescribed to control seizures.


While waiting for their condition to improve, patients in a coma are typically treated with supportive care and placed in an intensive care unit, where they may require complete life support.



When a portion of the brain is injured, a coma is a prolonged condition of unconsciousness. It can be brought on by a number of things, including brain damage, drug overdose, and uncontrolled diabetes. A coma frequently lasts a few weeks. However, some people could be in a coma for a very long time. The origin of the coma and the location and severity of the brain injury will both have an impact on long-term results. Some coma survivors recover from their condition with physical, mental, or psychological issues. And some coma survivors emerge without any lingering problems. It's uncommon that someone in a coma for longer than a year will awaken. When someone is in a coma, it might be challenging to predict when they will awaken.

Dr. Varun Kataria
Meet The Doctor
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