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Coma: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Outlook

07 September, 2020 Kratika Saxena

In medical terms, a coma is a state of unconsciousness in which the patient does not consciously respond to the environment and stimuli. 
Coma is characterized by loss of reaction to external stimuli and the absence of spontaneous nervous activity, usually associated with injury to the cerebrum. Coma is associated with a number of metabolic disorders or traumatic head injury, stroke, brain tumor, drug or alcohol intoxication, or even an underlying illness, such as diabetes or an infection.  
A coma is a medical emergency. 
 best medicine app Delhi article on coma will help you in giving you a better understanding of the coma.

What Causes a Coma?

Head Trauma

  • A person gets into the Coma condition when he has a traumatic injury to the head, such as from a car accident or fall.

Bleeding (Hemorrhage) into the brain or skull
Types of brain/skull hemorrhage include:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage: bleeding within the brain tissue
  • Epidural hemorrhage: bleeding inside the skull, but outside the dura,
  • Subdural hemorrhage: bleeding in both inside area of the skull, and dura, but not in the brain tissue itself
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding in the space adjacent to the brain tissue

Causes of brain/skull hemorrhage include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cerebral aneurysm: a blood vessel of the brain have a weak spot
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM): an abnormal cluster of blood vessels
  • Tumors

Swelling of the brain (cerebral edema)
Causes of swelling of the brain

  • Infections
  • Chemical imbalances
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Problems inflow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

Lack of oxygen supply to the brain
When there is no sufficient supply  or lack of oxygen to the brain include:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Lung disease, including pneumonia, emphysema, or asthma.
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Toxins


  • External poisons which are ingested or inhaled
  • Internal poisons are by-products of the body's normal metabolism which are not  excreted properly due to any reason

Endocrine disorders

  • Myxedema coma (hypothyroidism)
  • Diabetes
    • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
    • Hyperglycemia (excessively high blood sugar)

What Are the Symptoms of a Coma?

The main symptom of a coma is unconsciousness. A patient in a coma state will not respond to external stimuli and may appear to be in a deep sleep.
When a patient is in a coma have spontaneous body movements. Patients have two conditions in a coma state in the first condition he may shake or jerk abnormally, and the eyes may move. In the second condition, the cases of severe coma affect even basic body functions such as breathing.
The signs and symptoms of a coma are:

  • Closed eyes
  • brainstem reflexes not responding like such as pupils to light
  • no limbs movement, except for reflex movements
  • no feelings too painful stimuli, except for reflex movements
  • irregular breathing

What Are the Chances of Surviving a Coma?

In general, a coma is a temporary condition that lasts for more than two to four weeks. After emerging from a coma, the prognosis is varied and in some cases, people recover fully; some require lifelong physical and occupational therapy, while others may recover only basic functions.


The patient gradually recovers from a coma, while in others who enter a vegetative state or death in severe cases. People who emerge from a coma may experience some major or minor disabilities.
Complications related to coma are pressure sores, bladder infections, blood clots in the legs, and other problems.

What Is the Treatment for a Coma?

Before treating a coma patient, it is important to diagnose and treat the underlying cause. The patient requires life-saving resuscitative measures in serious cases of coma. Once the patient is medically stable, correct treatments will help in treating the underlying problem that is causing the coma.

For patients in a prolonged coma or persistent vegetative state, the patient has to protect himself from infections such as pneumonia and bedsores and providing essential nutrition, and maintaining the patient's physical health.
To prevent bone, joint, or muscle deformities, physical therapy is administered.
Sometimes coma is the result of a drug overdose, doctors will give medications to treat the condition. If the cause of coma is due to seizures, doctors will administer medications to control seizures.
Other underlying diseases like diabetes or liver disease focus on medications or therapies. 
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If the root cause of the coma can be successfully treated, the person may eventually awaken with no permanent damage.
The people who awake from the condition of coma remembers the incidents before going to coma and be able to continue with their life as normal.  For this, they require to undergo some rehabilitation therapy.