Amnesia

Amnesia patient

Last Updated February 21st, 2019

Overview

Right from a very young age, we begin to form memories and build up a memory bank. We draw upon these memories to inform decision making. We rely on our memory to build up stores of knowledge. The creation, storage and recall of memories is controlled by the brain. In fact, there are a quite a few areas of the brain concerned with these functions. One such crucial area is the hippocampus. It is quite normal to become forgetful or even develop a little memory loss as one ages. However, at times, due to traumatic events or even serious illness, some people may lose the ability to create or access memories.

 

What Is Amnesia?

Amnesia patient‘Amnesia’ refers to a condition wherein an individual is either unable to create new memories or unable to access existing memories. There can be a few different causes for this, ranging from head injuries to psychological or medical disorders.

However, the common factor in a majority of these cases is some kind of damage to those areas of the brain that are responsible for creating, handling and recalling memories. A certain case of amnesia may be temporary in nature or it may be irreversible.

 

Contrary to popular perception, individuals suffering from amnesia do, in fact, retain their sense of self and identity. This condition does not alter one’s personality although it may affect one’s quality of life. Patients do not forget how to carry out simple movements or to walk or to read. They do not necessarily lose all the memories that they have created. Some may lose short-term memory but retain long-term memory. In other words, they may remember events that occurred decades ago but fail to recall something that happened only a day earlier. The specifics vary from one case to the next.

 

Why Do Some People Develop Amnesia?

The direct cause for memory loss in amnesia is damage or injury to those areas of the brain that process, store and access memories. This can occur as result of substance abuse, severe injury, mental illness or even neurological disorders. Some known causes of amnesia are listed below:

  • Head trauma as a result of accidents or violence.
  • Tumour in the brain.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Extreme stress.
  • Nutritional deficiency, particularly thiamine deficiency.
  • Childhood abuse or sexual abuse.
  • Electroshock treatment.
  • Oxygen deprivation.
  • Encephalitis or inflammation of brain tissue.
  • Stroke.
  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Seizures.
  • Side-effect of certain medications.
  • Dementia.

 

What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

amnesia and memoryThe severity and extent of memory loss varies from one patient to the next. However, a person suffering from amnesia may be expected to display some of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to recall events from recent past such as the previous night or what they ate for breakfast that very day.
  • Inability to recall the distant past.
  • Gaps or blank periods in an otherwise sound memory.
  • Inability to identify locations or faces that they were earlier familiar with.
  • False memories.
  • Feeling disoriented or confused.

 

Are There Different Types Of Amnesia?

Yes, there are. Depending on the nature of the cause, amnesia may be classified as either medical amnesia or psychogenic amnesia. In other words, the former type arises as a result of a biological or physiological problem in the body. The latter type has a psychological origin and may have to do with mental illness, trauma or emotional disturbances.

Based on the nature of the condition, in terms of whether it affects recall or whether it impairs memory formation, two main types are recognised. These are:

  • Anterograde amnesia: This refers to cases of amnesia where patients lose the ability to create new memories. The person’s brain loses the ability to store new information. Hence, such patients are unable to recall events in the recent past although they retain all memories created before the event or illness that led to amnesia. It may be partial or complete in nature. Generally, this condition is permanent and recovery is not common.
  • Retrograde amnesia: In such cases, patients are unable to recall events that occurred prior to onset of amnesia. Yet, they are capable of creating and recalling memories of events that occurred afterwards. Hence, they have no long-term memory. It is possible for some old memories to be restored and this process may be gradual and incomplete.

A few other types are also recognised. These are:

  • Infantile amnesia: Most of us are unable to clearly recall events from the earliest years of our lives. This is referred to as childhood amnesia or infantile amnesia. It is not clearly known why we have the tendency to lose memories from the earliest period of our lives.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: This is a form of psychogenic amnesia. In other words, it owes its origin to some form of psychological or mental problem. The term ‘dissociative’ refers to the fact that this form of amnesia arises as a reaction towards distressing events. The person attempts to dissociate himself or herself from events such as childhood abuse or wartime experiences by actively blocking or shutting out memories associated with them. As a result, the person may have certain blank areas in their memory while being perfectly capable of recalling all other aspects of their past. In this case, there is no damage to the brain. The memories in question have not actually been lost. Sometimes, these buried memories may be brought to the surface by certain events or triggers in the environment.
  • Transient Global Amnesia: This is a temporary form of amnesia. Memories temporarily lost are eventually restored after varying lengths of time. Patients typically fail to recall recent events and are surprised to find themselves in a certain place without the ability to remember how they got there although they may still recognise familiar faces. Once the person recovers, there are no long-term effects.

 

What Are Some Potential Complications?

Memories form the basis of so much of our everyday lives and decision making. Without access to them, a person can face a range of difficulties in the home, in public and in the workplace. Their relationships might become strained. There may be some emotional strain and distress, too.  Patients with severe amnesia may need constant supervision to ensure that they do not get lost or hurt themselves.

 

How Is It Diagnosed?

amnesia and brainAmnesia is a rare condition. Therefore, when presented with such symptoms, the doctor will first need to rule out more likely diagnoses such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. He may also consider possibilities such as brain tumours before making the final diagnosis. In order to rule out these other possibilities, the following procedures may be conducted:

  • Physical examination. Relevant findings include signs of violence or head trauma or even indicators of abuse.
  • Medical history. Relevant findings include brain tumours, encephalitis or stroke.
  • Psychiatric evaluation. History of mental illness or instances like child abuse may be relevant.
  • Blood tests.
  • Electroencephalogram.
  • Computerised tomography (CT).
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

 

What Treatments Are Suitable For Patients With Amnesia?

The answer to this question depends on the cause of the amnesia. If amnesia is found to have been caused by alcohol abuse or as a side-effect of medications, this can most probably be reversed. Patients with temporary memory loss as a result of head trauma may also recover their memories over time. Nutritional deficiency can be treated with supplementation and diet modification.

However, in instances of dissociative amnesia, patients will need to undergo extensive therapy in order to help them accept their distressing memories. This may involve some amount of counselling and occupational therapy. Cognitive behaviour therapy has proved useful towards this end.

Patients with severe amnesia may need full-time carers in order to support and assist them. They may also benefit from the use of technological aids such as smartphones or smart watches.

 

Is it preventable?

While there are no direct preventive measures which will guarantee a protection from amnesia, but there are few steps that can help decrease the probability of its onset. Staying away from drugs and substance abuse is very important as these adversely affect your cognition. It is very important to prevent injury or physical trauma to brain, thus wear protective headgear wherever required.  Keep your brain active and stimulated by reading, learning new things, puzzles etc. Also, staying physically active and consuming a healthy and nutritious diet can go a long way in ensuring improved cognitive abilities. And this include drinking adequate amount of water too.

Despite the prevalence of memory loss and related conditions in literature or cinema, amnesia is in fact a rather rare disorder. As we have seen, it can manifest in a variety of ways and nearly any individual is a potential victim. Those who have suffered severe head injuries or strokes are more likely to develop amnesia than others. However, the overall likelihood of developing amnesia is still quite low. This condition is not well understood by common people and is easily confused with other more common conditions such as dementia.

 

Facts

  • People with amnesia don’t forget everything about their life history; they lose only a part of their memory.
  • In patients with dissociative amnesia, the brain knowingly blocks a particular traumatic memory (physical/sexual abuse, murder, or suicide of a closed one), as a defense mechanism.

Facts

  • Anterograde amnesia ceases the formation of long-term memory. People with this condition register new memories but cannot recall it after a certain time.
  • 16% of war veterans report having partial memory loss, mostly pertaining to combat injuries.

Facts

  • Amnesia due to psychological trauma (dissociative amnesia) occurs in almost 7% of the general population.
  • Prolonged heavy alcohol abuse and drug abuse are also closely linked with the development of amnesia, especially in the people above 40 years of age.

Related Conditions

Want to live a healthy lifestyle?

Subscribe to free FactDr newsletters.

REVAMP YOUR

If you're enjoying our website, we promise you'll absolutely love our new posts. Be the first one to get a copy!

Get factually correct, actionable tips delivered straight to your inbox once a week.

I want the latest scoop on :

We hate spam too. We will never share your email address with anyone. If you change your mind later, you can unsubscribe with just one click

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the FactDr Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of FactDr subscriptions at any time.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Hypnosis is used widely as a technique to cure amnesia since it works through age regression and relaxation of the brain.
  • Cognitive therapy has also shown results in improving the brain’s overall functioning including memory retrieval.
  • Keep a check on the patients for the build-up of suicidal tendencies. Protect them from harming themselves.

Don'ts
  • Consume alcohol and other substance abuse elements. Eat a balanced diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Indulge in  processed sugar consumption.
  • Force the patient to remember the details of the incident which triggered amnesia. It will induce more psychological stress.

 

 

 

Related Conditions

Trending Topics

diverticulitis diet
Diverticulitis diet: The right way to eat if you suffer from the disease Are you suffering from diverticultis but clueless about your diet ? Read this complete plan for diverticulitis diet…
Maltitol: Things you must know about this artificial sweetener Sugar alcohols are produced by fruits and vegetables. Maltitol is an artificially produced sugar alcohol and is used…
passion fruit juice
Passion fruit: How one exotic fruit can help you fight infections and cancer! Passion fruit: Why does this exotic fruit have such an enticing name? And how can it protect you…
Top 6 remedies to treat a razor burn at home Symptoms of razor burn include bumps on the skin, redness, and irritation of the skin. Find easy and…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
Chromium Picolinate: An essential mineral supplement for faster weight loss Did you know that about 1.6 million deaths were directly linked to diabetes globally? How is it linked…
The science behind daith piercing: Can it really cure migraine? Since the ear has several pressure points, it is believed that daith piercing activates the vagus nerve and…
cancer facts
8 hard-hitting truths no one tells you about cancer Did you know that 1.5 million new cases of cancer are reported every year? Can second-hand smoking kill…
Lectin: The common link of proteins between peas and people Lectins are a type of protein that are found majorly in legumes. Most people are find it easy…
The real reason why you shouldn’t be eating ramen noodles Instant ramen noodles might be your go-to snack for your hunger pangs. But with each spoonful you are…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
CLA: A breakthrough weight loss supplement with minimal side effects Tried every weight loss supplement in the market with no substantial gain? Why not try CLA supplements, derived…
diabetes symptoms in women
FBS Test – Fasting Blood Sugar FBS or fasting blood sugar test is a blood test that is used to determine the level of…
occupational hazards types
Occupational Hazards: How to vouch for your health at your workplace Occupational hazards affect millions worldwide. Chemical spills, faulty wires, deadly pathogen, and work-stress can happen anytime. Follow these…
magnesium test
Magnesium Test The magnesium test is a blood test that is generally prsecribed when an individual starts showing signs of…
waterchestnut
Water Chestnuts: The tastiest ways to include this healthy tuber in your diet Water chestnut is not a nut after all. It is a tuber (much like the potatoes) growing close…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
maltodextrin sugar
Maltodextrin: What are the hidden health benefits of this food additive? Maltodextrin is one of the few food additives that has been relatively deemed safe. Many experts now have…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Vitamin K2: 8 reasons why you need this bone-building & cancer-fighting nutrient Vitamin K2 is claimed to be essential for your bone health, for reducing the risk of cancer, and…
BRAT Diet: What is the right way to follow this diarrhea-relieving diet? BRAT diet, a simple diet consisting of just bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, can help you combat the…
Amaranth: Why is this native Peruvian grain called the “crop of the future”? Full of healthy high proteins and gluten-free, the grain, Amaranth, the tasty and ancient pseudo cereal from Peru,…
low fodmap plan
Troubled with IBS? Here’s a complete roadmap to the low FODMAP diet Leaky & inflammatory gut troubling you? No medicine bringing you relief from the pain? Why not try the…
Green, brown, & bitter: The instant advantages of including fenugreek in your diet Did you know the earliest usage of fenugreek can be traced back to the Egyptian civilization? Find out…
Coconut oil woman
Coconut Oil: How one oil dominates the kitchen and the medicine kit too Coconut oil has been a favorite in many Asian kitchens. But more than a cooking oil, coconut oil…
How accurate is the hair follicle drug test? Hair follicle drug test is one of the best ways to identify drug use in professional circles. But…
ketoacidosis diabetes
HB1Ac Test HB1Ac test is an important blood test that is used to measure the levels of glycated hemoglobin in…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
cold flu sinus treatment
How to beat the common cold, flu, and sinus infection instantly? Can you guess some of the easiest tricks to treat cold and sinus infections? How are these different…
Dragon Fruit – Blessing from Nature’s Basket The dragon fruit is packed with nutrients and yet low on calories and is the dream food that…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes with a plethora…
TBHQ: A carcinogen lingering in your child’s favorite snacks TBHQ - Why you should shun the practice of eating instant noodles or microwave popcorn to get rid…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
Dates: The complete list of instant health benefits this dry fruit can bestow Why you should regularly go for dates? Because, these small bulbs of healthy goodness are brimming with essential…
lifestyle diseases
The Big 5 lifestyle diseases: How your everyday living might be killing you You'd be shocked to know how unhealthy and potentially fatal your everyday routine could be. Has the modern…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does our poop turn…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
carrageenan seaweed
Carrageenan: How a simple seaweed extract could better your gut health & immunity Eat more ice cream to prevent cold and flu? –With carrageenan you get one simple seaweed extract that…
dance health benefits
5 unbelievable effects of dance on your overall health! You enjoy dancing, but did you know what else it does to your body? Dancing is not only…
Fluoride: An indispensible mineral or a potential toxin ? Fluoride, the main ingredient of toothpaste, has shown a great potential as a cleanser. However, how much fluoride…
Horny Goat Weed: Can it improve libido in human beings too? This plant got its name as Horny Goat Weed when one of the goats feeding on the plant…
Poop chart: Top things you didn’t you your poop could reveal about you Bristol poop chart was designed during the 1990s in order to help doctors identify various types of poops…
acne removal tips
Anatomy of acne: 7 instant steps to kiss those zits goodbye Blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples-call them what you may. Acne is never good news.Did you know some of the…
vital organ diseases
Common diseases that could cripple your vital organs Brain, heart, kidney, lungs, and liver - these vital organs are indeed vital for your survival. However, these…
almonds healthy
9 reasons why almonds should be consumed daily Almonds are filled with nutrients and energy and are used since ancient times.  The bitter almonds are chosen…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
What to eat, what not to eat in the South Beach Diet? The South Beach Diet is one among the most popular weight loss programs that have been the talk…
Latest findings on Kombucha; a teacup full of yeast and bacteria How can a tea consisting of a live culture of bacteria & fungi be healthy? With Kombucha, you…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
Top Natural Repellents for Mosquitoes with negligible side-effects What are the best ways to keep mosquitos away from you? Try these natural and 100% safe products…
Stye : The best natural home remedies to ease the pain Styes developing inside the eyelid tend to be more painful whereas external styes are less painful and ooze…
Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
Quinine: How gin and tonic came to be known as a potent health elixir The discovery of quinine-containing tree bark is sometimes considered the most serendipitous medical discovery of the 17th century.
Helicobacter pylori IGA
Helicobacter Pylori – IgA Test The H.pylori IgA test is a blood test used to identify the level of IgA antigen in the…
folate test
Folate test The Folate test is used to measure and monitor the levels of folic acid in the blood. The…
hidden causes obesity
8 hidden causes of obesity you probably didn’t know! Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are either overweight or obese? Are you too a…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
yoga health benefits
How to practice yoga for astounding health benefits Can a 5000-year-old system be the ultimate body healer? Did you know yoga can make you smarter and…
lose pregnancy weight
5 most effective ways you can lose those pregnancy pounds! Are you looking for ways to get back into shape? Scared of crash diets? Don't let your post-pregnancy…
oral hygiene tips
6 shocking consequences of bad oral hygiene (and how to avoid them) Did you know bad breath is not just turning off, but also harms your body in ways you…
autoimmune diseases facts
Autoimmune Diseases: Find out if your body is attacking you right now Did you know your body can harm itself? What are autoimmune diseases and why does it harm some…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
Dunning kruger effect
Medical Mythbusters : How many of these myths did you think were true? Do vaccines cause autism? Does sugar really make kids hyperactive? Don't fall prey to these common health misconceptions!
essential amino acids
Amino acids: Building blocks of life for better mood and sex drive! Find out why amino acids are often called as the building blocks of life. And why should you…
CBD oil safe
Cannabidiol benefits: Evaluating the “highs” of CBD Oil The word cannabis paints a picture of addicts. But did you know that CBD oil, extracted from the…
calories healthy
Calories: How to keep a check on these for faster weight loss Did you know you can burn calories while sleeping? Calorie-burning is what causes weight loss. How much should…
kefir bottle
Kefir: Top reasons why this probiotic drink should be consumed by you Yet another remarkable fermented food, kefir is a much healthier version of yogurt. These chewy white grains can…
Moringa drink
Moringa: This could be the most nutrient-dense food known to us! Moringa is a lush green tree brimming with over 90 essential nutrients required for a healthy mind and…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Vitamin B12: The unknown repercussions of this nutrient deficiency Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamine; involved in the development of red blood cells in the bone marrow.…
Valerian Root: The best way to achieve tranquil sleep every night Valerian root is probably one of the oldest and safest way to cure your insomnia. Find out how…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
Top 15 fat burning foods you need to start eating from today! Tired of going to gym everyday but seeing no change in your weight? Try these top fat burning…
Sharpen your brain with these top brain-friendly foods! Did you know your diet could decide how razor sharp your memory is? Or that what you eat…
How can Kegels help you overcome weak pelvic muscles & incontinence? Kegel exercises are pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can help you overcome incontinence issues that rise out of…
Eustachian Tube : Functions and top home remedies to prevent its infection Pressure equalization, mucus drainage and protecting the middle ear from bacteria and viruses are the three important functions…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Sore Throat: How to treat this throat infection at home? Do frequent cold and cough hamper your daily life? Are these followed by a pain in the throat?…
Hot cups for detox? Read all about the ancient technique of cupping Did you know inverted hot cups on your back can squeeze out and eject toxins from your body?…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
ANTIPHOSPHOLIPIDANTIBODY(APL)_IgG
Antiphospholipid (APL) antibody-IgG The Antiphospholipid Antibody testing is a blood test used to determine an autoimmune disorder called Antiphospholipid syndrome linked…
rubella IgG test
Rubella IgG Test The rubella IgG test is a blood test that checks for the rubella virus IgG antibodies present in…
HPV diegene hybrid dna detection
HPV Digene Hybrid DNA Detection test An HPV DNA test is a test used to detect 13 high-risk types of human papillomavirus infections. HPV…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
Serotonin happiness
Serotonin: What you didn’t know about this “feel-good” chemical Serotonin : Did you know that this "feel-good" hormone could well impact your sleep cycle, sex drive, appetite,…
Spirulina: Battle diabetes and cholesterol with this blue-green algae Spirulina, a species of salt water algae, has now become a billion dollar industry. How you can use…
High Fiber Diet – Fire up your fiber intake for these health benefits! Regular bowels, healthy detox, higher immunity, and guaranteed weight loss - a high fiber diet can bring all…
waking up tired
10 reasons why you might be waking up tired Do you feel you are not getting enough sleep? Sleep-deprived and frustrated? Read on discover the real reasons…
Magnesium depression
Citrate or Oxide: Which magnesium supplement is best for your body? Magnesium : Does your DNA require some repair works? Or bones and muscles need some strengthening? Look no…