Amnesia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Amnesia is a term we are all familiar with, be it from movies, TV shows or books. It is one of the most baffling and challenging conditions of the human mind.  Amnesia is a type of memory loss. It can affect each one differently though. Some people with amnesia have trouble forming and storing new memories, whereas some others have difficulty remembering their past incidents or simple facts. If amnesia is not severe, people can usually remember information about their identity and basic motor skills.

Slight memory loss is a common trait that comes with aging but when the memory loss is significant or is hampering your ability to form new memories, it is best to get examined by a medical professional for amnesia disorder.

In this article:

What Causes Amnesia?
Symptoms of Amnesia
Treatment for Amnesia
Preventing Amnesia

All You Need to Know about Amnesia

amnesia definition

 

What Causes Amnesia?

Amnesia can be caused by many different factors. Some of them are:

Dementia

As one grows older, the memories you make change their location of storage in your brain. Conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can lose memories, although mostly fairly recent ones and their older memories stay intact for a longer time.

Anoxia

Anoxia is a condition where your brain can be adversely affected and you can lose your memory due to lack of oxygen in your brain. However, if it isn’t severe this condition is usually temporary.

Adverse Effects on the Hippocampus

Hippocampus is a the center of your brain which takes care of memory formation, memory organization and retrieving memories when needed, which can be damaged by anoxia and other toxins. Severe damage in both halves of one’s brain can lead to complete anterograde amnesia.

Head Injuries

Sudden head injuries, like due to a car accident, as well as brain tumors, strokes, and infections which damage the brain can cause permanent memory loss. Concussions disrupt memories of days and even up to weeks if it is severe.

Alcohol

It’s use can cause temporary blackouts, but long term alcoholism can cause difficulty in forming new memories.

Excessive Trauma or Stress

This can form dissociative amnesia where your mind rejects thoughts and feelings that your brain finds too overwhelming to process. It can even lead to unexplained travelling and wandering, and make you forget certain details of your life.

Symptoms of Amnesia

The basic and main symptom of amnesia is memory loss or difficult and inability of new memory formation. Amnesia causes the affected person problems by making it difficult for them to recall events, dates, facts, names of places. It can range from difficulty in remembering what you ate last night for dinner to who is the current president of your country. The patient does not lose basic motor skills. They retain the ability to walk, sit, eat their own food, hold things and fluently speak the languages they know.

There are many types of amnesia which include retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia, and transient global amnesia.

Retrograde Amnesia

Diseases like dementia cause retrograde amnesia. In this type of amnesia, you lose memories which already exist in your brain and ones you had previously made. This type of amnesia usually affects memories which have been recently formed before it affects older memories. Say, for example, you will have trouble remembering where you went for a vacation last summer before you forget your childhood memories of where you lived and your school friends.

Anterograde Amnesia

Unlike, retrograde amnesia, in case of anterograde amnesia you would not be able to form any new memories at present time.   It can be experienced if you consume too much alcohol and develop a temporary blackout.  White alcohol is mostly responsible for this. Permanent anterograde amnesia can be experienced if the hippocampus of your brain is damaged.

Transient global Amnesia

Not much conclusive research has been done on Transient global amnesia which goes by the popular acronym TGA. Once you develop this condition, symptoms include confusion, anxiety and agitation that repeatedly occur over several hours. In case of TSA one might have to deal with memory loss in the hours before the actual attack, and patients tend to have little to no substantial memory of the events that have actually occurred during the attack. During the attack the patient can have a seizure like activity in the body and the brain which leads to temporary blockage of the blood vessels supplying blood to your brain. It is mostly common in middle aged people.

Infantile Amnesia

This phenomenon is very common and there is nothing to worry about. People rarely remember the first five years of their life in detail. This is called infantile or childhood amnesia.

Treatment for Amnesia

Once your amnesia has been properly diagnosed by a doctor, they will look for the specific condition which causes the amnesia and try to solve the problem by attacking its cause.

If your amnesia is chemically induced, the problem can be solved by strictly abhorring from consumption of the chemical substance. If alcohol causes your amnesia you have to get alcohol completely out of your system to reduce your memory problems.

Amnesia caused by mild head trauma, such as a not so serious concussion, the amnesia should reduce without any medical treatment over a period of six months. However, if it does not reduce, consult a doctor.

Dementia is an incurable condition which can only be controlled up to a certain extent. If dementia is causing amnesia the doctor would most likely prescribe medications which help one to improve learning.

If your memory loss is persistent, the doctor may recommend some therapy which helps you to retain information better. This would include certain specific memory aids and techniques which your therapist can assist you with to help you master the memory skills essential for smooth and healthy daily living.

Preventing Amnesia

You can certainly lower the risk of blackouts, dementia and strokes by minimizing alcohol intake and avoiding substance abuse. Make sure you use protective head gear during sports. Stay active and maintain a healthy diet.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amnesia

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK442001/

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