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What Causes Sudden Memory Loss

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Causes Of Sudden Memory Loss

How to Understand the Causes of Memory Loss

From mental health issues and thyroid conditions to poor diet and certain medications, many medical conditions can lead to instances of forgetfulness and memory loss. Problems with memory can also be a sign of Alzheimers or other forms of dementia. Because memories are created in and retrieved from many areas of the brain, any brain injury can cause sudden short-term memory loss, including:

  • Stroke

How To Diagnose The Cause Of Memory Loss

If you are becoming increasingly forgetful and if memory problems are interfering day to day activities then consult with your doctor immediately to detect the cause and treatment for memory loss. Patients medical history and physical exam will be done. Neurological exam is also conducted. The patient is asked questions to test his/her mental ability. Further evaluation includes nerve tests, blood tests, urine tests and imaging tests of the brain such as CT scan and MRI scan can also be done if needed.

Home Remedies For Short

You might have heard that certain vitamin supplements can help improve your short-term memory. However, even though these supplements are safe, theres conflicting research on whether they help memory loss.

In some cases, they can be helpful. For example, a B-12 supplement may help if your short-term memory loss is caused by a B-12 deficiency.

Otherwise, theres mixed evidence for how well other supplements work for memory loss. For example, ginkgo biloba is a popular supplement for memory and concentration issues. But a review of 36 studies found that while the supplement is safe, its effects on dementia or other cognitive impairments is inconsistent and unreliable.

Fish oil is another supplement you may have heard helps memory. A Cochrane review found that fish oil doesnt have any significant cognitive benefits for healthy older adults. However, they suggested that more research should be done on this topic.

Curcumin, which is extracted from turmeric, has been said to help improve cognitive function, including memory.

A review of curcumins effect on people with Alzheimers disease found that theres some evidence that curcumin positively affects some of the pathways affected by Alzheimers disease. However, the researchers found that more research is needed to say definitively if curcumin can help memory problems.

Even if supplements arent effective in treating short-term memory loss, there are some lifestyle modifications you can try, including:

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When To See A Doctor For Memory Loss

Its time to consult a doctor when memory lapses become frequent enough or sufficiently noticeable to concern you or a family member. If you get to that point, make an appointment as soon as possible to talk with your primary physician and have a thorough physical examination. Even if youre not displaying all the necessary symptoms to indicate dementia, now may be a good time to take steps to prevent a small problem becoming a larger one.

Your doctor can assess your personal risk factors, evaluate your symptoms, eliminate reversible causes of memory loss, and help you obtain appropriate care. Early diagnosis can treat reversible causes of memory loss, lessen decline in vascular dementia, or improve the quality of life in Alzheimers or other types of dementia.

What Causes Sudden Short

What Causes Sudden Memory Loss

Sudden short-term memory loss may be attributed to such factors as emotional or physical trauma, stress or drug use. While most people experience momentary forgetfulness from time to time, memory loss is different in that it has an unusual cause. Although it is not necessarily permanent in nature, impaired memory can be a very frustrating and life-altering experience.

This type of memory loss is characterized by a sudden inability to recall recent events and otherwise simple memories. A person with this condition is likely to remember events from long ago, but cannot recall events that immediately preceded her or his partial memory loss. This type of impaired memory is also referred to as acute memory loss because it is not permanent and is usually reversible.

Emotional trauma, such as abuse or extreme fear, can cause sudden short-term memory loss. This is seen as the minds way of protecting the psyche from unpleasant events it is otherwise unable to cope with. In a therapeutic setting or by hypnosis, memories are usually able to return as a person acquires the tools to confidently cope with the trauma.

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Emotional Causes Of Memory Loss

Because our mind and body are connected and affect each other, our emotions and thoughts can impact our brain. The energy it takes to cope with certain feelings or life stress can get in the way of storing or remembering details and schedules.

Often, these emotional triggers of memory loss can be improved by support, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Even just being aware ofand limiting exposure tothings that increase stress can help.

What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider

  • Is my memory loss normal for my age?
  • What is causing my memory loss?
  • Are there any medications that can help with the disorder causing my loss?
  • Will my memory get better or worse over time?
  • How can my family and friends help me?
  • Are there therapies or cognitive rehabilitation that would be appropriate for my memory loss?
  • Can you recommend mental health resources like a psychiatrist and therapist ?

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/29/2020.


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When Its Time To See A Doctor

If youre not sure if loss of memory warrants a doctor visit, consider:

  • Does your memory loss disrupt daily activities?
  • How often do the lapses occur?
  • Whats being forgottendetails of a conversation, or the conversation in its entirety?
  • Are there signs of confusion ?
  • Is the memory loss getting worse?

If someone is having trouble remembering the day of the weeknot the date, but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdaythats concerning, says Dr. Karlawish. Other concerning signs are repetitive questions: They get an answer, then several minutes later, they ask the same question. Or they repeat a story: something about a recent event, but then 20 minutes later, they tell you the same story.

Its not unusual for people to deny theyre having memory problems or to downplay the issue, but a prompt diagnosis is important.

Arrive at some reasonable, common understanding that you ought to get it looked into, says Dr. Karlawish. They dont have to agree on everything youve seen, and you dont have to make it a confrontation. Just get to the point where you can agree that Gee, it would be good to get this checked out. Then, the key is to go with them to the appointment.

You dont need to find a specialist for an initial consultation. Instead, look close to home.

Start with a doctor who knows you well, so a primary care physician, says Dr. Karlawish. Ideally, people go in with someone who knows them wella spouse, child or close friendwho can speak to what theyve been seeing.

Different Types Of Memory

Short Term Memory Loss

It seems that the brain has a number of different memory forms, including:

  • Short term – new information is stored for a brief time. If the information isn’t further processed, it will soon be forgotten.
  • Long term – information from the short term memory is shifted to the long term memory.
  • – conscious memories of information and events.
  • Non-declarative – once learned, habits such as driving a car are ingrained and automatic.

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How Sugar Accelerates Short

Your brain needs a steady supply of glucose, its main fuel.

The key word here is steady.

But the simple carbs found in the types of sugar and flour commonly used in processed foods can push blood glucose levels into an unhealthy range.

This adversely affects short-term memory.

Sugar also increases free radical damage and promotes inflammation of the brain.

It can even change your brainwave patterns, making it hard to think clearly.

Consuming too many simple carbohydrates can even cause insulin resistance in the brain.

This type of insulin resistance has been linked to Alzheimers disease.

Short Term Memory Loss Causes

There are a lot of short term memory loss causes. These reasons can generally be separated into three main categories. They are Outside Factors, Diseases/Disorders, and Injuries.

Outside Factors

Outside factors are causes that happen outside of the body but dont fall under the injury category. Medications, drugs, and alcohol fall in this category. Drugs and alcohol have been proven to have drastic negative effects on all areas of mental functioning including memory. As for medication, there are some that can affect a persons memory with continued use. Here are a few that affect short term memory:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antihistamines


Diseases/disorders are a big contributor to short term memory loss causes. Some of these diseases or disorders can directly cause it while others can be more of a secondary cause. Alzheimers is one of the more well-known diseases that causes memory loss. It is irreversible and slowly destroys memory and other cognitive functions over time. The effects can become so severe that people have a hard time performing basic daily functions. The disease causes abnormal lumps to grow in the brain called amyloid plaques and tangled masses of fibers called neurofibrillary grow in the brain also. The damage starts in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory. This is why the first signs of the disease is short-term memory loss.

Other short term memory loss causes in the diseases/disorders category include:

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Distinguishing Between Types Of Dementia

For physicians and families intent on pinning down a diagnosis, one major complicating factor is the existence of so many kinds of dementia. More than 50 conditions can mimic or cause dementia.

Alzheimers disease is by far the most common intractable condition. But other causes of irreversible dementia include blood vessel diseasevascular dementia), other degenerative disorders , slow-growing brain tumors, or infections of the central nervous system .

In some types of dementia, treatment will improve mental functioning, and in a small percentage, the dementia is completely reversible if treatment begins before permanent brain damage occurs. Thats why it is important to report to a doctor any signs of dementia as early as possible.

How Is Memory Loss Treated

Pin on Kidneys/Urine

Depending on the cause of memory loss, treatment is done. The memory loss is reversible in many patients with treatment.

  • If the memory loss is from certain medications, then it resolves with changing the medications.
  • If depression is the cause of memory problems, then treating depression resolves memory loss.
  • If the cause of memory loss is nutritional deficiencies then intake of nutritional supplements helps in treating the memory loss.
  • If Alzheimers disease is causing memory loss, then there are specific medicines available to treat memory problems which are due to Alzheimers disease.
  • Memory loss after a stroke is difficult to treat. Patient requires different types of therapy to remember how to do certain tasks, such as tying shoes, eating and walking. In some patients, memory improves with time.
  • If a person has brain damage as a result of dementia which is related to high blood pressure and memory loss, then medicines are given to lower the blood pressure.

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Surprising Causes Of Memory Loss

If you have difficulty remembering things, your mind may make the leap to Alzheimers disease but thats not the only cause of memory loss.

You can’t find your keys or you forget an appointment. For many people in middle age or older, simple acts of forgetfulness like these are scary because they raise the specter of Alzheimer’s disease.

But Alzheimers is not the only health issue that can lead to forgetfulness, which is often treatable if you know the cause, according to the National Institute on Aging. Memory loss can happen at any age and for a number of reasons.

Patients might experience memory loss and describe their symptoms similarly, but a doctor can tease apart what parts of the brain are affected, says Seth Gale, MD, a neurologist at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston.

He points out things like polypharmacy , significant depression, and poor sleep that can lead to memory complaints. When you drill down and find out what is actually happening with brain function, you can reassure someone. They have the capacity to learn and store information but because of their overloaded mental resources, they are having trouble, says Dr. Gale.

Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and the more serious symptoms that indicate dementia.

MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, but the line between MCI and normal memory problems is not always a clear one. The difference is often one of degrees. For example, its normal as you age to have some problems remembering the names of people. However, its not normal to forget the names of your close family and friends and then still be unable to recall them after a period of time.

If you have mild cognitive impairment, you and your family or close friends will likely be aware of the decline in your memory or mental function. But, unlike people with full-blown dementia, you are still able to function in your daily life without relying on others.

While many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimers disease or another type of dementia, that doesnt mean its inevitable. Some people with MCI plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline while others even return to normal. The course is difficult to predict, but in general, the greater the degree of memory impairment, the greater your risk of developing dementia some time in the future.

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How Is Amnesia Treated

There is no pill that can cure amnesia. However, amnesia can improve as the brain heals in some conditions. When memory loss is persistent, there are skills you can learn to compensate.

Cognitive rehabilitation involves teaching new skills to patients with anterograde amnesia. These might include organizational strategies or compensatory technology . Success varies. Occupational therapists often perform cognitive rehabilitation. Occupational therapists also help your family and friends cope with their role as caregivers.

Common Causes Of Forgetfulness

Memory Loss Quiz

Memory slips are aggravating, frustrating, and sometimes worrisome. When they happen more than they should, they can trigger fears of looming dementia or Alzheimers disease. But there are some treatable causes of forgetfulness. Here are six common ones.

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.

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.

Medications that may affect memory and possible substitutes

If you take these drugs

ask about switching to one of these drugs


another antidepressant such as fluoxetine or sertraline , or a different type of antidepressant such as duloxetine or venlafaxine


Underactive thyroid. A faltering thyroid can affect memory . A simple blood test can tell if your thyroid is doing its job properly.

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When To Visit The Doctor For Memory Loss

If you, a family member, or friend has problems remembering recent events or thinking clearly, talk with a doctor. He or she may suggest a thorough checkup to see what might be causing the symptoms. You may also wish to talk with your doctor about opportunities to participate in research on cognitive health and aging.

At your doctor visit, he or she can perform tests and assessments, which may include a brain scan, to help determine the source of memory problems. Your doctor may also recommend you see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the brain and nervous system.

Memory and other thinking problems have many possible causes, including depression, an infection, or medication side effects. Sometimes, the problem can be treated, and cognition improves. Other times, the problem is a brain disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which cannot be reversed.

Finding the cause of the problems is important for determining the best course of action. Once you know the cause, you can make the right treatment plan. People with memory problems should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory every six to 12 months. They can ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind them if they’re worried they’ll forget.

Learn more about cognitive health and Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Concussions And Head Injuries

Concussions and traumatic head injuries can cause short-term memory impairment, but some research has found that they can also increase the likelihood for the development of dementia over the years.

Be sure to take steps like wearing protective headgear and helmets when playing sports. And, if you do sustain a concussion, it’s important to let your head fully heal before returning to regular activities and participating in sports. Discuss any headaches and concentration difficulties after a head injury with your doctor.

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