Memory Loss

Everyone occasionally experiences forgetfulness. Mild memory loss tends to increase with age and is generally no cause for concern. However, there is a difference between mild memory loss due to normal aging and progressive or extreme memory loss due to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease (Bear, Conners, & Paradisco, 2007). 

Memory loss may start suddenly or come on slowly. It may affect your ability to remember recent events, events in the past, or both. You may forget a single event or all events. You may have trouble learning new material or making new memories. Memory loss may be permanent or temporary. 

Many causes of memory loss are treatable if diagnosed early. If not diagnosed and treated, some illnesses will progress and make treatment more difficult. 


Causes of Memory Loss

Many factors can cause memory loss. Among them are 

  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Use of alcohol or drugs and some prescription medications 
  • Anaesthesia 
  • Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation of the brain 
  • Head injury or concussion 
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain 
  • Some types of seizures 
  • Brain tumour or infection 
  • Brain surgery or heart bypass surgery 
  • Mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and dissociative disorder
  • Emotional trauma 
  • Thyroid dysfunction 
  • Electroconvulsive therapy 
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA) 
  • Neurodegenerative illnesses such as Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson’s disease 
  • Migraine 

Progressive memory loss is a symptom of Dementia. Other symptoms include difficulty with reasoning, judgment, language and thinking skills. People with dementia can also exhibit behavioural problems and mood swings. Dementia usually starts gradually and gets more noticeable as it progresses. Dementia can be caused by a variety of diseases, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease (Alzhiemers, 2012). 

Alzheimer’s disease impairs memory and affects reasoning, judgment and the ability to learn, communicate and perform everyday functions. People with Alzheimer’s disease can quickly become confused and disoriented. Long-term memories are usually stronger than memories of recent events. 

Although it can strike earlier, this progressive disease generally strikes people over age 65 (Kandel, Schwartz, & Jessell, 2000). 

Memory loss can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions that may worsen if left untreated. Getting a diagnosis is an important first step. Many medical conditions that cause memory loss are treatable when identified early.


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