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Memory Loss

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Causes of Memory Loss continued...

Dementia. Dementia is the name for progressive loss of memory and other aspects of thinking that are severe enough to interfere with the ability to function in daily activities. Although there are many causes of dementia -- including blood vessel disease, drug or alcohol abuse, or other causes of damage to the brain -- the most common and familiar is Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by a progressive loss of brain cells and other irregularities of the brain.

Other causes. Other possible causes of memory loss include an underactive or overactive thyroid gland and infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, and syphilis that affect the brain.

Finding the Cause of Memory Loss

If you find that you are increasingly forgetful or if memory problems interfere with your daily life, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause and best treatment.

To evaluate memory loss, your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam -- including a neurologic exam -- and ask questions to test mental ability. Depending on the results, further evaluation may include blood and urine tests, nerve tests, and imaging tests of the brain such as computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Memory Loss Treatment

Treatment for memory loss depends on the cause. In many cases, it may be reversible with treatment. For example, memory loss from medications may resolve with a change in medication. Nutritional supplements can be useful against memory loss caused by a nutritional deficiency. And treating depression may be helpful for memory when depression is a factor. In some cases -- such as following a stroke -- therapy may help people remember how to do certain tasks such as walking or tying shoes. In others, memory may improve over time.

Treatments may also be specific to conditions related to memory loss. For example, drugs are available to treat memory problems related to Alzheimer's disease, and drugs to help lower blood pressure can help reduce risk of more brain damage from dementia related to high blood pressure.  

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on August 27, 2013
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