What are the causes of memory loss?

Memory loss is often associated almost directly with Alzheimer's disease. But nevertheless, This can be caused by multiple diseases, by the consumption of certain medications and even by certain psychological disorders.

Not remembering the words we want to say, explaining the same story repeatedly, forgetting the day we are there or not knowing if we have done something or not, are symptoms of memory loss. In this article we analyze the main causes of this disorder.

Memory loss due to aging

Our cognitive performance varies throughout life, and as we get older, it is common to have more difficulty learning or remembering information. Like the rest of the body, the brain deteriorates as we age.

However, in most cases this is not an impediment to living a life with full mental capabilities. We may need to write down our pending tasks more or have a hard time remembering a specific word; even so, in general it is something that does not prevent living an autonomous life.

Of course, although not all older people will have major memory problems, It must be borne in mind that age is a risk factor for developing a disorder of this type. Therefore, it is convenient to know how to detect the warning signs in time and consult a doctor.

Age is one of the risk factors for memory loss. Still, not all older adults will have disorders of this type.

Read also: Types of aging

Memory loss from stress, anxiety, or depression

Memory alterations are very frequent in situations of chronic stress. The body is prepared to experience specific moments of anxiety, or even acute stress lasting a few weeks.

But when stress becomes chronic, basic functions such as digestion, adequate rest, or memory tend to suffer. In this way, forgetfulness is aggravated in cases of depression or traumatic events.

This is even confused with dementia, especially when the person is older. This is the case of elderly people who have recently lost their partner or who can no longer perform the same activities as before. The profound changes they are experiencing can easily trigger this situation.

Depression exacerbates memory loss, but unlike dementia, the person has other symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, or deep sadness. In any case, it is important to make a diagnosis in order to treat the disease in the most appropriate way.

Memory loss due to medical causes

A host of medical conditions can cause memory impairment or even dementia-like symptoms. Despite this, most can be treated. Some of the most common medical causes are the following:

  • The alcoholism. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to significant cognitive impairment. Alcoholism mainly damages long-term memory, and can cause neurological diseases such as Wernicke's encephalopathy or its more serious version, Korsakoff's Syndrome, in which the patient suffers from dementia.
  • Hypothyroidism Among many other symptoms, hypothyroidism impairs the capacity for attention, planning and abstraction. As for memory, it hinders immediate visual memory and reduces long-term verbal memory.
  • Brain diseases. Almost any condition in the brain can cause memory difficulties or dementia-like symptoms. Among them, brain tumors, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Huntington's disease, among many others.

Memory loss due to dementia

When we speak of dementia we refer to the set of symptoms associated with memory loss and other thinking skills, such as reasoning or language. The most common dementia is Alzheimer's, but there are other dementias such as vascular, frontotemporal or dementia with Lewy bodies.

For there to be a diagnosis of dementia, there must be at least two of the following areas significantly affected:

  • Memory.
  • Reasoning and judgment.
  • Concentration and attention.
  • Visual perception.
  • Communication and language.

Memory loss is not always the first sign, but it is one of the most relevant signs. Other early signs appear when the person has the following:

  • Difficulty performing common tasks.
  • Is easily disoriented.
  • Changes in mood or in behavior for no apparent reason.
  • Put objects in inappropriate places, such as a sweater in the fridge.
  • Use one word instead of another without being synonymous.
  • Forget everyday words.
  • Repeat the same questions on a recurring basis.

Most dementias are progressive and gradually get worse. Early diagnosis is essential, since it will allow the affected person to receive the appropriate treatment to alleviate the symptoms.

Dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease, is a leading cause of memory loss.

Read also: Early symptoms of dementia: how to detect them?

Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment falls between normal aging by age and dementia. Like the latter, it can involve memory, thinking, judgment and language difficulties. However, the symptoms will not be as severe and the person will be able to continue with their usual activities in most cases.

In the case of mild cognitive impairment, the person may present the following symptoms:

  • Forget appointments or social commitments.
  • You have a more general difficulty remembering things.
  • You lose the thread of the conversation or your own thinking.
  • Has more difficulty planning, making decisions or following instructions.
  • It costs you more to locate in familiar areas.
  • The family and close people perceive the changes in the subject.

Mild cognitive impairment significantly increases the risk of dementia. However, many people with this disorder do not get worse, and some even show fewer symptoms over the years.

Reversible causes of memory loss

There are many situations that can cause a temporary memory leak. Some of them include the following:

  • Head trauma A fall or accident can cause significant memory loss. The usual thing is that in a few hours or in a few days the person recovers the memories.
  • Medicines. Some medications such as anxiolytics, antidepressants, opioid pain relievers or antihypertensives can cause temporary memory loss while they are being used.
  • Emotional disorders As we have mentioned, stress, anxiety and depression often lead to memory difficulties. These usually subside when the patient's symptoms improve.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency. A deficiency of this vitamin can cause, among many other symptoms, memory difficulties. When the person recovers the levels of B12, the symptoms tend to disappear if they are detected early. In case of chronic deficiency, these can be irreversible.

It is important to seek timely care

If you suspect a memory problem, it is best to consult your GP as soon as possible. Whether it is something specific or the beginning of a chronic disease, it will be the professional who determines both the cause and the most appropriate treatment.

Regardless of the case, the symptoms should not be ignored, as they can become chronic if not intervened in the early stages.