As human beings we are complex and intricate in makeup and build. The human brain, comprising the very dense web of nerves, which controls and marshals your daily life through the sending of signals to and from the relevant lobes . These flow through our nerve pathway for us be able to function as intellectuals with a good memory function. Without your memory working efficiently, you would suffer memory loss. This is simply forgetting things. Wandering about semi confused, trying to remember what you want to do or say. This is simply put , forgetfulness.
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. It’s normal to become a bit forgetful as you get older. However, memory loss could be a symptom of something more serious and should be checked by a doctor .
Memory loss can be distressing for the person affected, and their family. Relatives may fear the worst and assume it’s caused by dementia, but this often isn’t the case. If your doctor thinks you or your relative needs an assessment for dementia, or that there may be another more serious underlying condition, such as brain damage, they’ll refer you to a specialist.
What do you do ?
See your doctor if you’re worried because you or someone you care for has lost their memory. They’ll do an initial assessment and ask questions about symptoms, family history and lifestyle. They may also arrange a blood test. 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.
Common causes of memory loss:
Doctors often find that people who see them about memory loss are most likely to have:
Their memory loss is a result of poor concentration and not noticing things in the first place because of a lack of interest. Sleeping problems often make the memory loss worse. Your doctors may suggest trying antidepressants. If you have depression or anxiety, your memory problems should get better as the depression or anxiety improves.
An elderly person with memory loss is likely to have depression if they also experience changes in behaviour, such as hoarding or being bad tempered.
Other common causes of memory loss are:
• a head injury – for example, after a car accident
• a stroke – this cuts off some of the blood supply to the brain and causes brain tissue to die
These will cause sudden memory loss, where you either forget events that happened before the trauma (retrograde amnesia), or you forget everything that happened after the trauma (anterograde amnesia).
Memory slips are aggravating, frustrating, and sometimes worrisome. When they happen more than they should, they can trigger fears of looming dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There are many mundane—and treatable—causes of forgetfulness.
Memory loss and aging : Normal age-related memory loss doesn’t prevent you from living a full and productive life. For example, you may forget a person’s name, but recall it later in the day. You might misplace your glasses occasionally. Or maybe you find that you need to make lists more often than in the past in order to remember appointments or tasks. These changes in memory are generally manageable and don’t disrupt your ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life.
Most common causes
1.Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is perhaps the greatest unappreciated cause of forgetfulness. Too little restful sleep can also lead to mood changes and anxiety, which in turn contribute to problems with memory.
2. Medications. Tranquilizers, antidepressants, some blood pressure drugs, and other medications can affect memory, usually by causing sedation or confusion. That can make it difficult to pay close attention to new things. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you suspect that a new medication is taking the edge off your memory. As shown in the table below, alternatives are usually available. Underactive thyroid. A faltering thyroid can affect memory (as well as disturb sleep and cause depression, both of which can be causes of forgetfulness). A simple blood test can tell if your thyroid is doing its job properly.
3. Alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can interfere with short-term memory, even after the effects of alcohol have worn off. Although “too much” varies from person to person, it’s best to stick with the recommendation of no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one a day for women. One drink is generally defined as 1.5 ounces (1 shot glass) of 80-proof spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
4. Stress and anxiety. Anything that makes it harder to concentrate and lock in new information and skills can lead to memory problems. Stress and anxiety fill the bill. Both can interfere with attention and block the formation of new memories or the retrieval of old ones.
5. Depression. Common signs of depression include a stifling sadness, lack of drive, and lessening of pleasure in things you ordinarily enjoy. Forgetfulness can also be a sign of depression—or a consequence of it.
6. If memory lapses are bugging you, it’s worth a conversation with your doctor to see if any reversible causes are at the root of the problem. Something like getting more sleep, switching a medication, or a stress reduction program could get your memory back on track.
Less common causes
• an underactive thyroid – where your thyroid gland (found in the neck) doesn’t produce enough hormones
• certain types of medication, such as sedatives and some treatments for Parkinson’s disease
• long-term alcohol misuse
• bleeding in the brain (subarachnoid haemorrhage)
• vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency – for example, as the result of a digestive problem
• transient global amnesia – problems with blood flow to part of the brain, which causes sudden episodes of memory loss that a person can’t recall afterwards
• psychogenic amnesia – a stressful or traumatic event that causes someone to block out the memory, leaving them unable to remember important information
• a brain tumour
TIPS FOR COPING : Tips for coping with a poor memory
1. Keep everyday items, such as car keys, in the same place and try to do things in the same order each time.
2. Write information down, and keep paper and a pencil near the phone.
3. Keep a diary at home as well as at work to remind you to do daily tasks.
4. Use an alarm to help you remember to do something in the future, such as taking something out of the oven.
5. Repeat important information you need to remember back to someone.
Amnesia is different from Dementia.
Could memory loss be dementia? 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.
• If your instincts are correct, their denial or lack of awareness of their memory loss can make it difficult to convince them to see a doctor.
Signs that someone has dementia, As a general guide:
• Dementia usually occurs in people over the age of 65.
• The memory loss doesn’t happen suddenly, but gets gradually worse over time.
• Someone with dementia will struggle to remember immediate or recent events, but can still recall events that happened a long time ago. This means that if their long-term memory is affected, it probably isn’t dementia.