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Alternative Names Return to topForgetfulness; Amnesia; Impaired memory; Loss of memory; Mild cognitive impairment
Definition Return to top
Memory loss (amnesia) is unusual forgetfulness.
Considerations Return to top
The cause determines whether amnesia comes on slowly or suddenly, and whether it is temporary or permanent.
Normal aging may lead to trouble learning new material or requiring a longer time to remember learned material. However, it does not lead to dramatic memory loss unless diseases are involved.
Causes Return to top
Home Care Return to top
The family should provide support. Reality orientation is recommended -- supply familiar music, objects, or photos, to help the person stay oriented. Some people may need support to help them relearn.
Any medication schedules should be written down so the person does not have to rely 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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have any unexplained memory loss.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
The doctor will perform a thorough examination and take a medical history. This may require asking questions of family members and friends.
Medical history questions may include:
The physical examination will include a detailed test of thinking and memory (mental status test), and an exams of the nervous system. Recent, intermediate, and long-term memory will be tested.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
References Return to top
Knopman DS. Regional cerebral dysfunction: higher mental functions. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 424.Update Date: 11/13/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.