Amnesia is the medical term for memory loss or forgetfulness. Inability to remember events for a while, often due to head trauma, illness, or the effects of drugs or alcohol. Memory loss can have causes that are not due to an underlying disease. Examples include aging, stress, or lack of sleep.
What is Memory Loss?
Memory loss or forgetfulness is a persistent failure to remember. Amnesia is the medical term for memory loss or forgetfulness. It results from changes in the brain and can be a normal part of aging or a symptom of another condition or disease. When you experience forgetfulness, you may have a harder time remembering information or events, learning new things, or creating recent memories.
Common causes of forgetfulness are aging, drug side effects, trauma, vitamin deficiency, brain cancer and infections of the brain, and various other disorders and diseases. Stress, overwork, insufficient rest, and perpetual distractions all interfere with short-term memory.
In an aging adult, forgetting beyond the normal rate can be a symptom of a disease such as Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia. It is important to determine the underlying cause of your forgetfulness and to start treatment as soon as possible.
Seek immediate medical attention if someone has acute or sudden forgetfulness after a head injury or is accompanied by sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, severe headache, difficulty to talk, or facial sagging.
If your forgetfulness seems to progress quickly, persists, or worries you, see a doctor quickly.
Many factors can cause memory loss. These factors include:
- vitamin B-12 deficiency
- sleep deprivation
- use of alcohol or drugs and certain prescription medications
- anesthesia from recent surgery
- cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a bone marrow transplant
- head injury or concussion
- lack of oxygen to the brain
- certain types of seizures
- brain tumor or infection
- brain surgery or bypass surgery
- mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and dissociative disorder
- emotional trauma
- thyroid dysfunction
- electroconvulsive therapy
- transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson's disease
Some of these conditions are treatable, and sometimes, the memory loss can be reversed.
Progressive memory loss is a symptom of dementia. Other symptoms include difficulty in reasoning, judgment, language, and thinking. People with dementia can also have behavioral problems and mood swings. Dementia usually starts gradually and becomes more noticeable as it progresses. Dementia can be caused by a variety of illnesses, the most common of which is Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease impairs memory and affects reasoning, judgment, and the ability to learn, communicate and perform daily functions. People with Alzheimer's disease can quickly become confused and disoriented. Long-term memories are generally stronger and last longer than memories of recent events. Although it can strike earlier, this progressive disease usually affects people over the age of 65.
To diagnose memory loss tests that may include:
- Blood tests for specific diseases that are suspected (such as low vitamin B12 or thyroid disease)
- Cerebral angiography
- Cognitive tests (neuropsychological/psychometric tests)
- CT scan or MRI of the head
- Lumbar puncture
Treatment for memory loss depends on the cause. Most times, it can be reversible with treatment. For example, memory loss caused by medication may go away with a change in medication. Nutritional supplements can be helpful against memory loss caused by nutritional deficiency. And treating depression can be helpful for memory when depression is a factor. In some cases, such as after a stroke, therapy can help people remember how to perform tasks such as walking or tying shoes. In others, a memory may improve.
Treatments can also be specific to conditions related to memory loss. For example, drugs are available to treat memory problems associated with Alzheimer's disease, and drugs to help lower blood pressure may help reduce the risk of further brain damage from hypertension-related dementia arterial.
When to Visit a Doctor?
See your doctor if the memory loss interferes with your daily activities, threatens your safety, progresses, or is accompanied by other physical symptoms. Memory loss can be caused by a variety of illnesses and conditions that can get worse if left untreated.
Include physical activity in your daily routine:
Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. It can help you keep a sharp memory.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging. - preferably spread over the whole week. If you don't have time for a full workout, take a few 10-minute walks throughout the day.
Stay mentally active:
Just like physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mental stimulation activities help keep your brain in shape - and can prevent memory loss. Do a crossword puzzle. Play bridge. Take alternative routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Volunteer at a local school or community organization.
Social interaction helps prevent depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with family, friends, and others, especially if you live alone.
You're more likely to forget things if your house is cluttered and your notes are messy. Write down tasks, appointments, and other events in a special notebook, calendar, or electronic organizer.
You can even repeat each entry out loud as you write it down to help cement it in your memory. Maintain to-do lists and check off items that you have completed. Reserve a place for your wallet, keys, glasses, and other essentials.
Limit distractions and don't do too many things at once. If you focus on the information you're trying to keep, you'll be more likely to remember it later. It can also help tie what you're trying to hold onto to a favorite song or other familiar concepts.
Sleep plays an important role in helping you merge your memories so that you can remember them later. Make your sleep a priority. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
Eat a healthy diet:
Healthy eating can be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, beans, and skinless poultry. What you drink also matters. Too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss. Just like drug use.
Manage chronic diseases:
Follow your doctor's treatment recommendations for medical conditions, such as depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and hearing loss. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory will be. Besides, regularly review your medications with your doctor. Various drugs can affect memory.