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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Coma
      Category : Health Centers > Brain and Nervous System


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Coma is a term that is used to describe a state of unconsciousness from which a person cannot be aroused.

What is going on in the body?

A person in a coma is unable to respond to the environment. He or she cannot be awakened by any means. A coma may or may not be reversible with treatment.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many possible causes of a coma, including:

  • medication, drug, or toxin exposure. This may include alcohol, barbiturate, or narcotic overdose, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • head injury
  • stroke, which is brain damage due to a lack of oxygen to the brain
  • bleeding into or around the brain. This may occur with a subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma, or subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • infections, such as the brain infections called meningitis and encephalitis
  • low blood sugar levels, called hypoglycemia
  • out of control diabetes, which is a condition that results in high blood sugar levels
  • severe liver or kidney disease, such as end stage renal disease
  • seizures, or epilepsy, due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain
  • low oxygen levels in the blood. This can occur with severe lung or heart disease. For example, severe asthma, emphysema, irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, and a blood clot in the lung, called a pulmonary embolus, can all cause coma from low oxygen levels.
  • hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature
  • severe salt imbalances. This may include an abnormally low sodium level, called hyponatremia or an overly high sodium level, called hypernatremia.
  • brain tumors
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, the cause cannot be found.


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    Coma: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 03/29/01

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