Breaking it Down: Signs and Symptoms of Post Intensive Care Syndrome
To recap from our first post in this series, the definition of Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) is new or worsening health problems after a stay in the ICU. These health problems can affect the body, mind, and/or emotions and often present after the patient has been discharged from the hospital. These problems may last anywhere from a few weeks, to months, and in some cases even years.
People with PICS often experience a wide array of symptoms. The following symptoms are examples of what some people may experience:
- Body: Weakness, trouble with balance, pain, difficulty completing previously routine tasks such as driving and housework
- Mind: Difficulty with thinking or memory, trouble concentrating, confusion, word finding difficulty, mental "fog", and trouble with daily activities and work routines resulting in reduced or loss of work
- Emotions: Depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, anger, and agitation
Not every patient who experiences critical illness develops Post Intensive Care Syndrome. However those that do, often describe the symptoms that are highlighted above. Some people may develop several symptoms spanning the body, mind, and emotions. And some people may have difficulty with a single symptom affecting a single system. The number of symptoms and systems affected does not matter. What matters is that one recognizes and acknowledges that critical illness can cause prolonged difficulties for those who experience it. For some patients, just knowing that they are not alone in this can be incredibly helpful.
It can be very natural for people to try to hide or compensate for these difficulties, however this can ultimately be detrimental to long term recovery. If you or a loved one has been critically ill or injured, and notice any of these (or similar) symptoms following, contact your healthcare provider. Use this website as a source of information to share.
Stay tuned to next month's blog to learn about preventing Post-Intensive Care Syndrome.