Alternate Names : Amnesia
Memory loss is the inability to recall people, objects, places, or
events that took place in the recent or distant past.
What is going on in the body?
The brain stores different types of information in different places.
Short-term memory involves recalling details that have been catalogued
seconds or minutes before.
Examples include reciting a phone number, recognizing a new face, or repeating
a list of 3 objects seen 2 or 3 minutes earlier. For this to happen,
distinct areas deep in the brain need to function properly.
Long-term memory involves the ability to recall events that took
in the distant past. For short-term memory to convert to long-term memory,
other permanent changes to brain cells have to take place. This is similar to
creating a permanent file or recording. Other parts of the brain perform this
Occasional memory lapses or forgetfulness are common.
These may be associated with depression,
stress, lack of sleep, and normal aging. Memory loss only becomes a
problem when it is severe and interferes with daily living.
Amnesia is a severe form of memory loss. It may be a
partial or complete lack of recall. Depending on the cause of amnesia, the
memory loss may arise suddenly or slowly. It also can be temporary or
What are the causes and risks of the symptom?
Common medical causes of memory loss include:
Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder causing
deterioration in memory and thought processes
barbiturates, hallucinogens, and medications such as those used for
electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, which is used to treat some mental
surgery in the temporal lobe of the brain, such as a craniotomy for a brain tumor
lack of oxygen to the brain, such as a
atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disorder caused by destruction
of the lining of nerves throughout the body
immunodeficiency disorder associated with AIDS
Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of part of the nervous
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rapidly progressing
degenerative disorder of the nervous system causing problems with walking,
talking, and the senses
Pick's disease, a
the brain that causes slowly progressing dementia
viral or bacterial encephalitis, an inflammation of
Lewy body disease, a degenerative disease of the nervous system
normal pressure hydrocephalus, or increased
cerebrospinal fluid in the brain
chronic subdural hematoma, or bleeding between the
brain lining and brain tissue
Wilson disease, a rare disease causing an accumulation of copper in the
liver, brain, kidneys, and corneas
neurosyphilis, an infection of the nervous system by the syphilis bacteria which causes
Certain abnormalities of a person's metabolism or
hormones may also be responsible for memory loss. These include:
hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid gland
hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid gland
high-dose steroid abuse
deficiency, or low body levels, of Vitamin B12
deficiency of niacin, which is vitamin
chronic exposure to metals, such as lead or mercury, and to dyes, such as aniline
medication side effects or