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What Is A Coma?

Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated Mar 14, 2022

    What Is A Coma?

    Coma is a state of prolonged unconsciousness that may be due to traumatic head injury, stroke, brain tumor, drug or alcohol intoxication, an underlying illness such as diabetes, or an infection. A coma is a definite medical emergency.

    What Happens When Someone Is In A Coma?

    Someone in a coma is unaware and unconscious of their surroundings. They cannot move and respond to voices, other sounds, or any kind of stimuli. The person is alive, but the brain is working at its lowest stage of alertness. The patient may look healthy and just appear as if they’re sleeping, but you can’t shake and awaken someone who is in a coma.

    They do not have control or awareness of certain movements, but they do retain basic life support functions like breathing and circulation.


    Comas may be caused by the following, including:

    • Infections in the brain
    • A stroke
    • Chemical imbalances in the body due to other illnesses
    • Severe injury to the head that affects the brain
    • Drug overdose
    • Brain damage
    • Seizures

    How Do People Look Out for Somebody in a Coma?

    Someone in a coma must be cared for within a hospital setting, like the medical care unit (ICU) of the hospital. There, the person can get the necessary medical attention needed to get better. 

    Some comatose patients are unable to breathe on their own and may need the assistance of a ventilator. This is a machine that pumps air into the lungs through a tube placed in the windpipe. 

    A person in a coma needs extra attention and care as they are prone to developing other conditions like bedsore. Bedsores are open sores on the body that are due to lying in one place for too long.

    Having a loved one go into a coma can quite often become very upsetting and extremely trying for an individual’s family. But it is encouraged that they continue to engage in small ways with someone in a coma, like playing music and talking to them. The patient may be able to still hear what’s going on, even if they can’t respond.


    What Happens After?

    A coma may last for an indefinite amount of time. There are moments when an individual stays under a coma for days, weeks, months, or even years and does very little except breathe on their own.

    Most people do come out of it.

    On TV, a person coming out of a coma is usually portrayed as simply “waking up” and resuming life normally. But in real life, this rarely is the case. Coming out of a coma, an individual probably is most probably confused and disoriented. It will take time for the person to start feeling better.


    Whether the patient who is in a coma is able to return to normal and live a normal life depends on what caused the coma and the extent of the trauma or damage to the patient’s brain.

    They may undergo rehab – medically-based rehabilitation and community-based rehab – which aim to help people regain independence.

    Other people may need therapy to relearn basic actions like tying their shoes, eating with a fork or spoon, or learning to be mobile and independent again. These patients may also have difficulty speaking or even remembering things. 

    The rehab program is individualized as the path to recovery looks different for everyone. Over time and with the assistance of therapists, however, recovering patients can make a lot of progress. They may not return to the exact level of health prior to their coma, but they can still live normally and enjoy life with their family and friends.

     Learn more about Medical Conditions here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Honey Buenaventura · Updated Mar 14, 2022

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