Amnesia refers to the loss of memories, such as facts, information and experiences. Though having no sense of who you are is a common plot device in movies and television, real-life Amnesia generally doesn’t cause a loss of self-identity.
Instead, people with Amnesia — also called amnestic syndrome — are usually lucid and know who they are, but may have trouble learning new information and forming new memories.
Amnesia can be caused by damage to areas of the brain that are vital for memory processing. Unlike a temporary episode of memory loss (Transient global amnesia), Amnesia can be permanent.
There’s no specific treatment for Amnesia, but techniques for enhancing memory and psychological support can help people with Amnesia and their families cope
The two main features of Amnesia are:
Most people with Amnesia have problems with short-term memory — they can’t retain new information. Recent memories are most likely to be lost, while more remote or deeply ingrained memories may be spared. Someone may recall experiences from childhood or know the names of past presidents, but not be able to name the current president or remember what month it is or what was for breakfast.
Isolated memory loss doesn’t affect a person’s intelligence, general knowledge, awareness, attention span, judgment, personality or identity. People with Amnesia usually can understand written and spoken words and can learn skills such as bike riding or piano playing. They may understand they have a memory disorder.
Amnesia isn’t the same as Dementia. Dementia often includes memory loss, but it also involves other significant cognitive problems that lead to a decline in the ability to carry out daily activities.
A pattern of forgetfulness is also a common symptom of Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but the memory and other cognitive problems in MCI aren’t as severe as those experienced in Dementia.
Additional signs and symptoms
Depending on the cause of the Amnesia, other signs and symptoms may include:
TREATMENTS AND DRUGS
Treatment for Amnesia focuses on techniques and strategies to help make up for the memory problem.
A person with Amnesia may work with an occupational therapist to learn new information to replace what was lost, or to use intact memories as a basis for taking in new information.
Memory training may also include a variety of strategies for organizing information so that it’s easier to remember and for improving understanding of extended conversation.
Many people with Amnesia find it helpful to use smart technology, such as a smartphone or a hand-held tablet device. With some training and practice, even people with severe Amnesia can use these electronic organizers to help with day-to-day tasks. For example, smartphones can be programmed to remind them about important events or to take medications.
Low-tech memory AIDS include notebooks, wall calendars, pill minders, and photographs of people and places.
Medications or supplements
No medications are currently available for treating most types of Amnesia.
Amnesia caused by Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome involves a lack of thiamin. Treatment includes replacing this vitamin and providing proper nutrition. Although treatment, which also needs to include alcohol abstinence, can help prevent further damage, most people won’t recover all of their lost memory.
Researchers are investigating several neurotransmitters involved in memory formation, which may one day lead to new treatments for memory disorders. But the complexity of the brain processes involved makes it unlikely that a single medication will be able to resolve memory problems
LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES
Because damage to the brain can be a root cause of Amnesia, it’s important to take steps to minimize your chance of a brain injury. For example:
Avoid excessive alcohol use.
Wear a helmet when bicycling and a seat belt when driving.
Treat any infection quickly so that it doesn’t have a chance to spread to the brain.
Seek immediate medical treatment if you have any symptoms that suggest a Stroke or Brain aneurysm, such as a severe headache or one-sided numbness or paralysis.
Head injuries that cause a Concussion, whether from a car accident or sports, can lead to confusion and problems remembering new information. This is especially common in the early stages of recovery. But head injuries usually don’t cause severe Amnesia.
Another rare type of Amnesia, called dissociative (psychogenic) Amnesia, stems from emotional Shock or Trauma, such as being the victim of a violent crime. In this disorder, a person may lose personal memories and autobiographical information, but usually only briefly.
The chance of developing Amnesia might increase if you’ve experienced:
Amnesia varies in severity and scope, but even mild Amnesia takes a toll on daily activities and quality of life. The syndrome can cause problems at work, at school and in social settings.
It may not be possible to recover lost memories. Some people with severe memory problems need to live in a supervised situation or extended-care facility.