What is Memory Loss?
Memory loss is defined as loss of ability to remember and recall past information or store any information. Memory loss tends to get overplayed in movies where after a blow to the protagonist’s head, he/she is unable to remember who he/she is or where they have come from. However, such kind of sudden and complete loss of memory occurs rarely in real life. But many of us are affected by some degree of memory loss. Memory loss can be an occasional forgetfulness or loss of short-term memory, which hinders our daily life. Memory loss has many causes.
What are the Causes of Memory Loss?
Given Below are Top 10 Common Causes of Memory Loss:
Sleep deprivation is the leading cause of memory loss for most of the population. For a good memory, both the quality and quantity of the sleep are important. Waking frequently in the night or getting very little sleep causes fatigue and tiredness, which in turn interferes with a person’s ability to consolidate, retain and retrieve information.
There are a number of over-the-counter medications and prescription medications which interfere with our memory or cause loss of memory. Some of the culprit medicines include: antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, pain medications and sleeping pills.
Smoking cuts down the oxygen supply to the brain which affects the memory and causes memory loss.
Stress & Depression
Depressed individuals find it very difficult to concentrate and pay attention which affects the memory. Anxiety and stress also affects a person’s concentration. If a person is tense and distracted and if the mind is over-stimulated then the ability to remember anything gets affected leading to memory loss. Stress occurring as a result of emotional trauma can also cause memory loss.
Excessive use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco causes memory loss. Use of illicit drugs changes the chemicals in the brain, which makes it difficult to recall and retain any type of memories.
Deficiencies in vitamins and nutrients, especially vitamin B1 and B12 affects memory and causes memory loss. For a good memory, it is important to have good nutrition which includes high-quality fats and proteins for proper functioning of the brain.
Injury/Trauma to the Head
Injury or trauma to the head occurring in an automobile accident or as a result of a fall damages the brain and causes both long-term and short-term memory loss. There can be gradual improvement in the memory over time.
Memory Loss Caused Due to Stroke
A stroke is a medical condition which occurs when there is cut off of the blood supply to the brain from leakage of a blood vessel into the brain or blockage of a blood vessel to the brain. Strokes commonly cause short-term memory loss.
Dementia is a medical condition where a person has progressive loss of memory along with loss of other aspects of thinking which hinders the patient’s ability to function in daily activities of living. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes of dementia are alcohol abuse, blood vessel disease, drug abuse and damage to the brain.
Other Causes of Memory Loss
Having an overactive thyroid gland or an underactive thyroid gland and infections such as tuberculosis, HIV and syphilis which affect the brain can also cause memory loss.
How to Diagnose the Cause of Memory Loss?
If you are becoming increasingly forgetful and if memory problems are interfering day to day activities then consult with your doctor immediately to detect the cause and treatment for memory loss. Patient’s medical history and physical exam will be done. Neurological exam is also conducted. The patient is asked questions to test his/her mental ability. Further evaluation includes nerve tests, blood tests, urine tests and imaging tests of the brain such as CT scan and MRI scan can also be done if needed.
How is Memory Loss Treated?
Depending on the cause of memory loss, treatment is done. The memory loss is reversible in many patients with treatment.
- If the memory loss is from certain medications, then it resolves with changing the medications.
- If depression is the cause of memory problems, then treating depression resolves memory loss.
- If the cause of memory loss is nutritional deficiencies then intake of nutritional supplements helps in treating the memory loss.
- If Alzheimer’s disease is causing memory loss, then there are specific medicines available to treat memory problems which are due to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Memory loss after a stroke is difficult to treat. Patient requires different types of therapy to remember how to do certain tasks, such as tying shoes, eating and walking. In some patients, memory improves with time.
- If a person has brain damage as a result of dementia which is related to high blood pressure and memory loss, then medicines are given to lower the blood pressure.
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