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Memory loss (amnesia) can be distressing. It is natural to forget small and simple things while performing daily activities, however, the inability to recall past or recent events, indicates a problem in the memory center of the brain. Abnormal degree of forgetfulness is termed as memory loss.

Memory loss can be sudden or gradual. It can be long-term or short-term. The severity of the amnesia depends on factors such as the age of the patient, cause, availability of prompt and correct treatment, etc. Causes of short-term and long-term amnesia can be the same, however, the impact might be different. The causes of transient global amnesia could be:

  • A trauma that affects that part of the brain, which contains the memory centers.
  • Strokes caused due to very high blood pressure
  • Excessive smoking as it increases the risk of stroke
  • Vascular dementia, leading to alterations of blood vessels, thereby causing decreased or blocked blood flow to the brain
  • Abnormal anxiety, anger, and excessive stress
  • Dementia or delirium
  • Prolonged exposure to toxins
  • Brain tumor
  • Certain chronic illnesses or recurrent health problems
  • Lewy body disease
  • Wilson’s disease (too much copper in the body)
  • Less amount of oxygen supplied to the brain
  • Disrupted blood supply to the brain
  • Severe deprivation of sleep
  • Seizures, such as epilepsy seizure
  • Intake of certain medications (for example: statins taken to reduce high cholesterol levels)
  • Infection in the brain
  • Meningitis or inflammation of brain membranes
  • Head injury
  • Low or high thyroid levels (underactive or overactive thyroid)
  • Malnutrition or vitamin deficiency such as deficiency of vitamin B12
  • Anemia and electrolyte imbalances
  • Pseudodementia resulting from depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia caused by damage to the frontal lobe and/or the temporal parts of the brain.
  • Transient ischemic attack or stroke that lasts only for a few minutes
  • Multi-infract dementia caused by multiple strokes (disruption of blood flow to the brain)
  • Cardiovascular disorders such as congestive heart failure
  • Seizures like temporal lobe epilepsy
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Encephalitis or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord that is usually caused by viral infection
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or brain damage caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is a rare, degenerative brain disorder
  • Huntington’s disease, a hereditary disorder of the central nervous system
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Low fluid intake leading to dehydration
  • Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines medications (central nervous system depressants)
  • Drug abuse (consumption of amphetamines, marijuana, or cocaine)

The symptoms of amnesia may vary from person to person, and also according to the underlying cause of the disorder. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in planning and organizing
  • Disorientation in unfamiliar places
  • Getting lost in places one is familiar with
  • Describing the same thing again and again, or asking the same question repeatedly
  • Inability to remember recent events
  • Confusion about time, place, and people
  • Forgetting or losing belongings like keys, mobile, and wallet regularly
  • Frequently missing appointments or engagements
  • Difficulty in maintaining daily routines
  • Facing problems while searching/mixing words or inability to use the right words
  • Behavioral changes or mood changes without apparent reason
  • Inability to perform a familiar task, in spite of carrying it out several times
  • Social withdrawal or anxiety

Prompt and proper treatment can help the affected person regain his/her memory, which is possible only in case of early identification of the amnesia.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a medical practitioner.