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Health Encylopedia

Definition A unpleasant state of extreme arousal, increased tension , and irritability. See also anxiety, stress, and tension .
Alternative Names Restlessness
Considerations Extreme agitation can lead to confusion , hyperactivity , and outright hostility. Agitation can come on suddenly or gradually. It can last for just a few minutes or for weeks and even months. External stimuli , pain, stress , and fever all increase agitation. Agitation by itself may not have much clinical significance; but, if viewed with other symptoms, it can be a good indicator of a disease state.
Common Causes
  • anxiety
  • alcohol withdrawal
  • appetite suppressants (such as amphetamines)
  • caffeine
  • cocaine intoxication
  • nicotine withdrawal
  • drug withdrawal (see
  • cocaine withdrawal '>cocaine withdrawal and opiate withdrawal )
  • Vitamin B6
  • deficiency
  • hyperthyroidism
  • drugs such as amphetamines,
  • cocaine , ephedrine, or theophylline
  • certain medical tests that involve injecting a "contrast medium" into the patient
  • hallucinogenic drugs
  • Home Care A calm environment, plenty of sleep, adequate lighting, and any measure to reduce stress may help to decrease agitation. Avoid restraining an overly-agitated person if possible, since this usually makes the problem worse. Communication of feelings is important.
    Call your health care provider if
  • there is prolonged or severe agitation, especially if accompanied by other unexplained symptoms.
  • What to expect at your health care provider's office Your health care provider will obtain a medical history from either the patient or a family member and do a physical examination . Medical history questions documenting agitation in detail may include:
  • type
  • Is the patient more talkative than usual or is there a feeling of pressure to keep talking?
  • Does the patient show increased purposeless activity (e.g., pacing, hand wringing)?
  • Is the patient extremely restless?
  • Is the patient
  • trembling or twitching ?
  • time pattern
  • Was the agitation a short episode?
  • Is the agitation persistent?
  • How long did it persist -- for how many day(s)?
  • aggravating factors
  • Does the agitation seem to be triggered by reminders of a
  • traumatic event ?
  • Did you notice anything else that may have triggered agitation?
  • Does the patient take any medications, in particular, steroids or thyroid medicine?
  • How much alcohol does the patient drink?
  • How much caffeine does the patient drink?
  • Does the patient use any drugs, in particular, cocaine, narcotics, or amphetamines (speed)?
  • other
  • What other symptoms are also present?
  • Is there
  • confusion , memory loss , hyperactivity , or hostility (these symptoms may play an important role in diagnosis). Diagnostic tests may include:
  • vital signs
  • (temperature,
  • pulse , rate of breathing, blood pressure )
  • blood studies (such as
  • CBC , blood differential , thyroid studies, drug screening)
  • head CT scan
  • or
  • cranial MRI (head)
  • lumbar puncture
  • X-rays of the skull
  • After seeing your health care provider:
  • You may want to add a diagnosis related to agitation to your personal medical record.