Amnesia

1 What is Amnesia?

Amnesia refers to the inability to memorize or recall experiences and information.

This loss of memory is greater than simple absent-mindedness. This loss of memory may be permanent and is caused by brain damage or due to psychological factors.

There are two main types of amnesia – anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia. With anterograde amnesia, people lose their ability to memorize new things, while retrograde amnesia is characterized by the loss of pre-existing memories.

Anterograde amnesia is more common than retrograde amnesia. There is no complete cure for amnesia.

Methods to improve memory enable the patient to have a better quality of life.

2 Symptoms

The two most common symptoms of amnesia are:

  • Inability to memorize and learn new facts and experiences
  • Inability to recall pre-existing memories

People with anterograde amnesia face issues with short-term memory, but are able to recall remote memories.

These patients may not be able to tell the name of the current president, but remembers past presidents.

Memory loss does not generally affect intelligence, awareness, or judgement.

Some other symptoms associated with amnesia include:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • False memory, either made up of real memories that happened at a different time line or completely invented

These patients may not have the presence of mind to seek medical advice when needed.

These symptoms of amnesia need medical attention.

3 Causes

Brain injury is one of the main causes of amnesia.

Any damage to structures that regulate emotions and memories, like the thalamus or hippocampus, may result in amnesia.

This type of amnesia caused by damage to the brain is called neurological amnesia.

Some of the causes of neurological amnesia include:

  • Inflammation and infections of the brain
  • Inadequate oxygen supply to the brain
  • Vitamin deficiency caused by alcohol abuse
  • Brain tumor
  • Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease
  • Seizures
  • Certain medications like benzodiazepines

Head injuries due to accidents may cause temporary amnesia.

Emotional trauma also results in memory loss, called dissociative amnesia.

The major risk factors for amnesia include brain surgery or injury, alcohol abuse, seizures, and stroke.

4 Making a Diagnosis

edical history of the patient, which helps to rule out chances of other conditions that may result in memory loss.

This is usually done with the help of a friend or a family member who can provide complete information on the person’s medical records.

Further evaluation includes:

  • Type of memory loss
  • Onset of amnesia
  • Cause of the memory loss
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • History of seizures, headaches, and injuries
  • Signs and symptoms

Physical examination helps to check for neurological functioning including reflexes, sensory function, and balance.

Conventional cognitive tests assess the cognitive abilities like judgement, thinking, and memory.

Imaging techniques are recommended to visualize the structural abnormalities in brain.

5 Treatment

There is no complete cure for amnesia and all treatment methods focus on improving memory through different strategies.

Occupational therapy helps the person to learn new information based on pre-existing information. It also helps to organize information for easy recollection and better understanding.

Using new generation technology gadgets also aid in organizing information and recollecting pre-existing memories.

Low-tech gadgets like wall calendars, pill minders, and notebooks are also useful.

Amnesia caused by vitamin deficiency is treated by vitamin supplementation and an improved diet.

6 Prevention

Preventing brain injury is one of the ways to prevent amnesia.

Protecting the head during sports and driving, treating infections early, and avoiding alcohol use are important steps in preventing amnesia.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Several alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for amnesia.

Belladonna, Anacardium, Hyoscyamus, Digitalis, Arnica Montana, Plumbum Met, Mercurius, Kali Phos, Natrum Mur, Natrum Carb, Zincum Met, Hypericum, Veratrum Album are the specific homeopathic medications for treating amnesia.

Almonds, walnuts, and apples are beneficial for improving memory.

Cumin seeds, black pepper, rosemary, sage, brahmi booti are other commonly known herbal remedies for amnesia.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Memory loss is very frustrating for most of the patients.

Continuous support from family and friends is essential for them to carry out their daily activities.

Talking to experts and support group also helps them to understand their condition better.

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with amnesia.

Amnesia affects the daily activities of a person.

It can affect performance at home, school, and the work place.

People with amnesia may need support for their everyday activities.

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