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.
Things that may raise the risk of amnesia are:
- Head and brain injuries, such as from a car accident
- Brain damage from problems like:
- Complications from procedures such as:
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Brain surgery
- 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
- Recent physical or emotional pain or trauma
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Symptoms of amnesia may be::
- Problems remembering new or past information
- 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:
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
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