Everyone forgets something at one point or another. It is common to forget where you last kept your car keys or the name of the person you met a few minutes ago. Constant memory problems and a decline in thinking skills can be blamed on aging. However, there is a difference between regular memory changes and those associated with memory loss disorders like Alzheimer’s. Some memory loss issues may be treatable.
If you wish to help those facing similar problems, you may want to opt for an accelerated BSN degree. However, if you wish to know more about memory loss to help yourself or a loved one, keep reading to learn more.
The Connection Between Memory Loss and Aging
Memory loss due to aging does not lead to significant disruptions in daily life. You may forget an individual’s name, but you will be able to recall it later on. This memory loss is manageable and does not hinder the ability to live independently, maintain a social life or even work.
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Mild cognitive impairment is an obvious decline in one area of thinking skills, such as memory. This leads to changes greater than those that occur due to aging but less than those caused by dementia. The impairment does not hinder a person’s ability to perform daily tasks or engage in social activity.
Researchers and physicians are still finding out more about this type of impairment. Most patients with the condition eventually progress to dementia due to Alzheimer’s or another related disease. However, some others with common age-related memory loss symptoms do not progress as much and do not end up with dementia.
The Connection Between Memory Loss and Dementia
Dementia is an umbrella medical term used to define a set of symptoms that include impairment in reading, judgment, memory, language, and thinking skills. It often begins slowly and worsens over time, causing an individual to become disabled by hindering normal relationships, social interactions, and work. Memory loss that disrupts regular life is the leading symptom of dementia. Other signs include:
- Inability to remember common words
- Asking the same questions on repeat
- Mixing words
- Misplacing items
- Taking long to complete familiar tasks like making a simple cake
- Getting lost while driving or walking in a familiar neighborhood
- Mood swings for no obvious reason
What Diseases Lead to Dementia?
Diseases that progressively damage the brain and lead to memory loss and dementia include:
- Vascular dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy or LATE
- Mixed dementia
What Are the Reversible Conditions of Memory Loss?
A ton of medical issues can lead to memory loss or dementia symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated to reverse memory loss symptoms. A doctor’s examination can help deduce if a patient has reversible memory impairment.
- Some medications may lead to forgetfulness, hallucinations, and confusion.
- Head trauma, injury, falls, and accidents, especially those that lead to unconsciousness, can lead to memory issues.
- Stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional issues can lead to difficulty concentrating and the inability to perform daily activities.
- A vitamin B12 deficiency leads to memory loss problems as it is necessary for healthy red blood cells and nerve cell growth/production.
- Chronic alcoholism can lead to mental disabilities.
- Brain diseases like an infection or tumor may cause dementia-like symptoms.
- An underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism leads to forgetfulness.
- Sleep apnea can cause loss of memory and lead to poor thinking skills.
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
If you or a loved one is showing symptoms of memory loss, it may be time to see a doctor. Doctors will conduct tests to determine the level of memory impairment and diagnose the underlying cause. It is a good idea to take a friend or family member along who can help the patient answer simple questions the doctor will ask to draw a conclusion. These questions may include:
- When did the memory problems start?
- What medications do you take? What are their dosages?
- Have you started taking any new medications?
- What daily tasks have become the most difficult to perform?
- What do you do to cope with memory loss issues?
- Have you been in an accident or injured in the last few months?
- Have you recently been sick and feel depressed, anxious, or sad?
- Have you faced a major stressful life event or change?
Apart from asking the questions above and conducting a general physical exam, the doctor will also ask other questions to test a patient’s memory and thinking skills. They may also order brain-imaging scans, blood tests, and other medical tests to determine the root cause of memory loss and dementia-like symptoms. Sometimes, the patient may be referred to a specialist who can treat memory disorders and dementia more easily. Such specialists include geriatricians, psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychologists.
Diagnosing initial memory loss and dementia can be challenging. However, early diagnosis and prompt treatment can help manage symptoms and allow family members/friends to become familiar with the disease. Not only this, but it also enables future care, helps identify treatment options, and allows the patient or their family to settle financial or legal matters beforehand.