By Dr. Milind Barhate, Psychiatry
Memory loss, also called amnesia, happens when a person loses the ability to remember information and events they would normally be able to recall. It could be something that happened seconds or minutes ago, or a memorable event that occurred in the past. The loss of memory may have started suddenly, or it may have been getting worse over the last year or so.
Memory loss has a wide range of possible causes, depending on the type of memory loss. Doctors classify memories as either:
- Immediate memories -such as sounds, which are only stored for a few seconds
- Short-term or recent memories -such as telephone numbers, which stay in your memory for 15 to 20 seconds; the brain can store about seven chunks of short-term information at any time
- Long-term or remote memories -more permanent memories, which have been reinforced because you’ve repeatedly gone over them in your mind
- If you’re reading this because you think your memory problems may be a sign of dementia, rest assured that they probably aren’t. A person with dementia won’t usually be aware of their memory loss, or may deny it.
- Your memory loss is likely to be caused by something much more common and treatable, such as depression.
- You may be worried that someone you care for has dementia. However, bear in mind around 40% of people over 65 have some type of memory problem, and only 15% will develop dementia each year.
Causes of Memory Loss-
- Medical Conditions- Certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems. These problems should go away once you get treatment. Some medical conditions that may cause memory problems are:
- Bad reaction to certain medicines.
- not eating enough healthy foods, or too few vitamins and minerals in your body
- drinking too much alcohol
- blood clots or tumors in the brain
- head injury, such as a concussion from a fall or accident
- thyroid, kidney, or liver problems
- Emotional Conditions - Some emotional problems in older people can cause serious memory problems. Feeling sad, lonely, worried, or bored can cause you to be confused and forgetful.
- Mild Cognitive Impairment- some people grow older, they have more memory problems than other people their age. This condition is called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. People with MCI can take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include:
- losing things often.
- forgetting to go to events or appointments.
- having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age.