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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:



(Memory Loss)


Amnesia is when a person cannot recall new information or past events. It may go away in a short time or be lasting.


Most amnesia caused by damage to the brain. It may be due to an accident, an illness like a brain infection, stroke, or certain medicines. Sometimes the cause is not known.

Rarely, an emotional event can cause a problem called dissociative amnesia.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of amnesia are:

  • Head and brain injuries, such as from a car accident
  • Brain damage from problems like:
    • Alcohol or substance use disorders
    • Stroke
    • An illness that affects the brain, such as encephalitis
  • Complications from procedures such as:
  • Dementia or Alzheimer disease
  • Some medicines, such as those used as anesthesia
  • Certain changes in the body, such as changes in blood glucose levels or a lack of oxygen
  • Seizures
  • Recent physical or emotional pain or trauma
Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia.

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Symptoms of amnesia may be::

  • Problems remembering new or past information
  • Confusion
  • False memories


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask about the memory loss and when it started. A person with amnesia may not be able to answer these question. If not, a loved one or family member may answer for them.

To look for a cause, tests may be done such as:

  • A neurological exam
  • Blood tests to look for things like infections
  • Images of the brain may be taken to look for damage. This can be done with:
  • An EEG to test the brain’s electrical activity


Any cause of the amnesia will need to be treated. The problem may go away on its own. A therapist or support group may be needed for those whose amnesia does not go away.


There are no current guidelines to prevent amnesia.





  • Amnesia. Better Health Channel website. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/amnesia.
  • Amnesias. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/function-and-dysfunction-of-the-cerebral-lobes/amnesias.
  • Kirshner HS. Transient global amnesia: a brief review and update. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2011 Dec;11(6):578-582.
  • Memory loss (amnesia). NHS Choices website. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/memory-loss-amnesia.
  • Transient global amnesia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/transient-global-amnesia.
  • Transient global amnesia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/function-and-dysfunction-of-the-cerebral-lobes/transient-global-amnesia.
  • Treating amnesia. Brain & Life—American Academy of Neurology website. Available at:https://www.brainandlife.org/articles/treating-amnesia.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.