What causes memory loss? 24 possible conditions

Viewing 1 - 20 of 24 results

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.

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.

Consult a doctor if memory loss is beginning to affect your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms. Noting what type of memory loss you have will help you and your doctor determine its cause.

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

Memory Loss and Aging

As you age, you may find that your memory fails you from time to time. You may forget the name of someone you just met, or you may misplace things more often than you used to. Perhaps you rely more on lists and calendars to remember chores and appointments. The type of memory loss associated with normal aging does not hamper your ability to function at work or at home.

Coping with Memory Loss

Coping with Your Own Memory Loss

If your memory is not as sharp as it once was, a few simple adjustments can help you with your daily activities.

  • Use lists for chores.
  • Keep a checklist of medications and when they should be taken.
  • Keep your address book and calendar up to date.
  • Keep your home organized and easy to manage.
  • Be socially active and engage in hobbies you enjoy.
  • If your memory loss is progressing or becoming severe, make an appointment with your doctor. Ask someone you trust to go with you.

Coping with a Loved One’s Memory Loss

It can be disturbing to watch someone you love struggle with memory loss. Depending on the severity of their condition, there are things you can do to help. For example:

  • Encourage them to visit the doctor if their memory loss is interfering with their ability to function on their own. Accompany them to the appointment.
  • Write it down. Keep a checklist of medications and when they should be taken. Use a pill organizer if necessary.
  • Help them update their address book and calendar.
  • Help them organize their home.
  • Keep important items in plain sight.
  • Use sticky notes around the house as reminders of how to perform tasks.
  • Encourage them to remain socially active.
  • Use photographs and familiar belongings to spark memories.
  • Arrange to have someone help in the home. If memory loss is severe, investigate home health care, assisted living, or nursing home options.
  • Be patient. Don’t take someone else’s memory loss personally—remember that they can’t help it.

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
  • anesthesia
  • cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation of the brain, or bone marrow transplant
  • head injury or concussion
  • lack of oxygen to the brain
  • some types of seizures
  • brain tumor 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

Some of these conditions are treatable and, in some cases, memory loss can be reversed.

Dementia

Progressive memory loss a symptom of dementia. Other symptoms include difficulty with reasoning, judgment, language, and thinking skills. People with dementia can also exhibit behavioral 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.

Alzheimer’s Disease

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.

When to See a Doctor

Consult your doctor if memory loss is interfering with your daily activities, threatening your safety, progressing, or accompanied by other physical symptoms.

Memory loss can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions that may worsen if left untreated.

The Medical Examination

A medical exam for memory loss will include a complete medical history. Bring a family member or trusted friend along to help you. The doctor will ask questions about the specifics of your problems with memory. He or she may also ask a few questions to test your memory. Your doctor should also give you a complete physical exam and ask about other physical symptoms.

Depending on the findings of the exam, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist, geriatrician, or mental health professional. Additional diagnostic testing may include

  • cognitive testing (mental status testing to check your thinking ability)
  • blood tests to look for various conditions including vitamin B-12 deficiency and thyroid disease
  • imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan of the head
  • electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the electrical activity of the brain
  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • cerebral angiography (an X-ray to see how blood flows through the brain)

Getting a diagnosis is an important first step. Many medical conditions that cause memory loss are treatable when identified early.

Article Sources:

Read More

See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder. Learn about the causes, signs and research being done about AD.

Read more »

2

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar can be a dangerous condition. Hypoglycemia is rare in people who are not suffering from diabetes, the chronic disease that affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar...

Read more »

3

Concussion

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Usually it occurs after an impact to your head or after a whiplash-type injury. A concussion can cause many severe symptoms that affect brain function.

Read more »

4

Adult Brain Tumor

A brain tumor is the growth of abnormal cells in your brain. Whether the growth is cancerous or not, any brain tumor is serious. Symptoms can include both cognitive and physical control problems.

Read more »

5

Vertebrobasilar Circulatory Disorders

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Vertebrobasilar circulatory disorders are a group of diseases in which not enough blood is supplied to the back of the brain. Symptoms depend on the cause, but may include vision and sleep problems, dizziness, and more.

Read more »

6

Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

Read more »

7

Encephalitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue usually caused by viral infection. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, and vomiting. Seizure, unconsciousness, and high fever are severe signs.

Read more »

8

Hypercalcemia

Hypercalcemia is a condition in which you have too much calcium in your blood. Serious cases could cause symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, and weakness.

Read more »

9

Seizures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Seizures are changes in the brain's electrical activity that cause violent shaking and loss of bodily control. Bruises can result from injuries sustained during a seizure.

Read more »

10

Delirium

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Delirium is an abrupt change in the brain that causes mental confusion and emotional disruption. It makes it difficult to think, remember, sleep, pay attention, and more. You might experience the condition durin...

Read more »

11

Epilepsy Overview

The types of epilepsy include Juvenile Myoclonic, Benign Rolandic, Reflex, West Syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Landau-Kleffner and Rasmussen's Encephalitis Epilepsy.

Read more »

12

Partial Seizures

The human brain operates by conducting electrical signals through neurons (nerve cells). A seizure occurs when there is a surge in this electrical activity. This causes a host of physical symptoms such as muscl...

Read more »

13

Night Terrors

Night terrors are a form of sleep disorder in which a person partially awakens from sleep in a state of terror.

Read more »

14

Whipple's Disease

Whipple's disease is caused by Tropheryma whipplei bacteria. It's a relatively rare disease that affects the digestive system and can spread to the heart, lungs, brain, joints, and eyes. The condition can be lif...

Read more »

15

Organic Brain Syndrome

Organic brain syndrome (OBS) is a general term for decreases in mental function that are not caused by a psychiatric disorder. Reduced mental function could include: problems with memory difficulties understandin...

Read more »

16

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which you briefly stop breathing during sleep. The moments of apnea can occur repeatedly throughout the night. The interruption of your breathing happens may indicate a proble...

Read more »

17

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder. It first presents with problems of movement. Smooth and coordinated muscle movements of the body are made possible by a substance in the brain calle...

Read more »

18

Multiple Sclerosis Overview

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 individuals in the United States and over two million worldwide. Although it is considered a relatively rare disease, MS is of particular interest recentl...

Read more »

19

Neuroblastoma

The body's nervous system is divided into two main areas: the central nervous system (which includes the brain and the spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system . The sympathetic nervous system , part of th...

Read more »

20

Huntington's Disease

Huntington's disease is a hereditary condition in which your brain's nerve cells gradually break down. This affects your physical movements, emotions, and cognitive abilities. There is no cure, but there are ways t...

Read more »

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
  • Page 1 of 2
Advertisement
Are you experiencing other symptoms?

I'm experiencing:

Choose from list of symptoms:

Advertisement