We all have memory lapses sometimes. Even young, healthy people can be prone to forgetting words (the old tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon) or misplacing keys. But true memory loss, also called amnesia, is something completely different, according to Penn Medicine.
Memory loss is described as “unusual forgetfulness” in which a person is “unable to remember new events, recall one or more memories of the past, or both.” In severe cases, amnesia might get in the way of a person’s daily life, and the memory loss might get worse over time.
Reversible Causes of Memory Loss
Often, when we think of memory loss, causes like dementia and severe brain trauma come to mind. But not all causes of amnesia are permanent. According to Mayo Clinic, below are 7 reversible causes of memory loss:
- Medications: Certain medications or a combination of medications can cause forgetfulness or confusion.
- Minor head trauma or injury: A head injury from a fall or accident — even if you don’t lose consciousness — can cause memory problems.
- Emotional disorders: Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities.
- Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency: Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency — common in older adults — can cause memory problems.
- Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.
- Brain diseases: A tumor or infection in the brain can cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, researchers are also studying a possible link between COVID-19 and lingering problems with cognition in otherwise-recovered patients.
When to See a Doctor
Mayo Clinic emphasizes the importance of seeing a doctor for people who are experiencing memory loss that concerns them. If the cause is reversible, prompt treatment could make all the difference. Even in the case of Alzheimer’s disease or a related cause, an early diagnosis is important so that treatment can begin as soon as possible to improve symptoms and plan for the future.
For more information on memory loss, including symptoms, causes, and treatment, visit Penn Medicine and Mayo Clinic.