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Alternative namesForgetfulness; Amnesia; Impaired memory; Loss of memory
DefinitionMemory loss (amnesia) is unusual forgetfulness that can be caused by brain damage due to disease or injury, or it can be caused by severe emotional trauma.
The cause determines whether amnesia comes on slowly or suddenly, and whether it is temporary or permanent.
Normal aging may result in trouble learning new material or requiring longer time to recall learned material. However, it does not lead to dramatic memory loss unless diseases are involved.
Family support should be provided. Reality orientation is recommended -- supply familiar music, objects, or photos, to help the patient become oriented. Support for relearning may be required in some cases.
Any medication schedules should be written down to avoid dependence on memory.
Extended care facilities, such as nursing homes, should be considered for people whose basic needs cannot be met in any other way, or whose safety or nutrition is in jeopardy.
Call your health care provider if
Call your health care provider if there is any unexplained memory loss.
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and will obtain a medical history. This may require asking questions of family members and friends.
Medical history questions documenting memory loss in detail may include the following:
Physical examination may include a detailed neurological examination. Recent, intermediate, and long-term memory will be tested.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
Update Date: 2/10/2003Elaine T. Kiriakopoulos, M.D., M.Sc., Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT