Our brain’s job is not an easy one. It is always indulged in storing, comprehending, and retrieving information, even when we are asleep. That is why it is quite normal for it to glitch sometimes or for things to fall through these glitches. The standard aging process comes with memory deterioration, but not all memory loss is expected. Memory loss is normally divided into short-term and long-term memory loss, and various conditions may cause them. Let us look into what they might be.
What is Memory Loss?
Jason Karlawish, M.D., professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy, and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Problem of Alzheimer’s: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease Into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It, says that “Memory loss is a term that describes a variety of different cognitive complaints. One of those complaints may be trouble remembering information. But folks who complain about memory loss are often having trouble with other cognitive abilities like attention or concentration or language. Whatever the actual problem, it’s concerning if it’s creating inefficiencies or disabilities in daily activities.”
Memory loss has different kinds, each with its own causes and symptoms. Short-term memory loss and long-term memory loss are the most common kinds.
- Short Term Memory Loss
The human short-term memory stores information for up to 30 seconds, and thus people with short-term memory loss tend to forget things that have taken place in the recent past. This may include forgetting if you already asked a question, where you put a particular item, or what somebody just told you. Although a part of the normal aging process, complications arise when short-term memory loss becomes increasingly severe.
- Long Term Memory Loss
Long-term memory loss refers to impeded ability to remember things that happened in the past, as our long-term memory keeps a record of our memories or knowledge. A long-term memory deterioration over time is also expected, as long as it does not prove destructive. Since it is normal for the brain to slow down with the aging process, multitasking may become a hassle in older people. However, skills and knowledge typically remain unhampered. Long-term memory loss may cause trouble in articulating the right words, failure to remember names or places, or inability to make sense of surroundings.
Does memory loss indicate dementia?
Memory loss is one huge telltale sign of dementia. There are several kinds of dementia associated with memory loss, some of which include:
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (mad cow disease)
- Progressive supranuclear palsy
- Lewy body dementia
- Normal-pressure hydrocephalus
- Alzheimer disease
- Fronto-temporal dementia
What are the causes of memory loss?
Most high dosage prescription medicines have memory loss as their side effects. These medications include
- Anti-anxiety medicines
- Muscle relaxants
- Strong painkillers
- Sleeping pills
- Medical conditions
Head trauma and concussions are one primary reason behind memory loss. A simple blow, the impact of which may not even cause unconsciousness, or repeated blows like those delivered when boxing or fighting, affects the memory and cognition. Apart from that, infection in the surrounding tissues of the brain, infections of the brain such as syphilis, Lyme diseases, or AIDS, multiple sclerosis, diminished oxygen supply to the brain, brain tumors, and brain surgeries may also cause memory loss. Untreated epilepsy, medical conditions such as bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy, stroke, and transient ischemic attack (TIA) may also contribute to memory loss.
Incapacity of the thyroid gland to produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone results in hypothyroidism. In contrast, hyperthyroidism results from elevated thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormone controls the ability of cells to use up energy, and disturbances in its output have inevitable adverse effects on memory retention. However, this cause of memory loss is reversible and can be treated if diagnosed early.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Alcohol-related damage is one of the most common causes of memory loss because the part of the brain responsible for memories is more vulnerable to alcohol damage. 10% of all dementia cases are alcohol-related. 29% of other dementia cases are also affected by alcohol consumption. This is also a reversible cause of memory loss and can be eradicated.
- Reduced sleep
Sleep deprivation is one of the most common yet most neglected causes of memory loss. Studies have shown that individuals in their 50s, 60s, and 70s who sleep less than six hours a night suffer from a 30% higher risk of dementia and memory loss than those who sleep for adequate amounts.
- Vitamin and other nutrient deficiencies
Vitamin deficiencies, especially Vitamin B1 or B12, are definite causes of memory deterioration. Vitamin B1 is responsible for the regular nurturing of nerve and red blood cells. Since its levels decrease as we age, it is essential to have a nutrient-rich diet and be up to date with required supplements.