Mild forgetfulness and short term memory loss are common complaints in people as they age. Examples of common memory complaints that may occasionally occur during normal aging include misplacing objects around the house, forgetting the names of less familiar acquaintances, forgetting your intent upon entering a room, or having some difficulty remembering lesser details of what you have read or of prior conversations.
Additionally signs of short term memory loss might include occasional word finding difficulty and feeling that a word is on the “tip of the tongue,” but you are having some difficulty retrieving it is also not uncommon. Although such infrequent memory lapses may be frustrating, they are not necessarily a cause for concern. Normal, age-related memory changes are very different from dementia.
Short-Term Memory Loss
There are several short-term memory loss causes, including those due to medical conditions and or brain injuries. The main difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that in normal aging the forgetfulness does not interfere with your ability to carry on with normal daily activities. In other words, the memory lapses have little impact on your daily life, or your ability to carry on the usual chores, tasks and routines that comprise our daily lives.
Short-term memory loss treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, sudden memory loss could be associated with a brain aneurysm of brain tumor. In addition thyroid hormone imbalance, strokes, traumatic brain injury or concussion, brain infections (encephalitis, meningitis, etc.), and treatment for cancer can also cause short-term memory loss.
Some kinds of forgetfulness can be remedied by making adjustments to lifestyle and if possible, to medications.
- Sleep: Persistent lack of sleep contributes significantly to forgetfulness. A minimum of 6 hours of sleep is suggested for adults
- Medication: Some medications for depression, blood pressure, heartburn, and overactive bladder can affect memory. Consulting with your physician to see if adjustments can be made could alleviate some memory issues
- Thyroid Level: Under-production of the thyroid hormone affects memory, sleep patterns and can cause depression. Your physician can order a blood test to assess hormone levels
- Stress/Anxiety: Both stress and anxiety cause the excess production of the stress hormone, cortisol which can interfere with the ability of the hippocampus to make as well as recall memories. Implementing a stress reduction program can help with memory function
- Depression: Depression and memory loss are linked conditions and forgetfulness can be a symptom or consequence of depression. Management and treatment of the depression can help alleviate memory issues
- Alcohol: Excess alcohol consumption affects short-term memory and can continue to interfere with memory afterwards
Memory Loss Due to Disease
In contrast to the normal mild short-term memory loss associated with aging, dementia is characterized by marked, persistent, and disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment or abstract reasoning, that significantly interfere with and disrupt your normal daily activities.
When memory disorders becomes so pervasive that it begins to disrupt your work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships, this may suggest the warning signs of an evolving dementia syndrome or a condition that mimics dementia. How to treat memory loss along with other symptoms in these cases also is dependent on the underlying disease.
Some examples of conditions that cause or have associated memory loss are listed here.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementias
- Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders (e.g. progressive supranuclear palsy)
- Epilepsy/seizure disorders
- Head injuries/sports concussion
- Brain tumors
- Brain infections (encephalitis, meningitis, etc.)
- Sleep apnea and other sleep-related disorders
- Exposure to pesticides and other neurotoxic chemicals
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
Memory Assessment & Management
Specialists at our center work together to provide an integrated and holistic approach to our patients’ cognitive challenges. We conduct a complete brain health workup including a cognitive brain health assessment and memory assessment.
With our broad range of memory loss treatment resources, and through social and community-based interventions we are able to support people in aging well. Programs for cognitive brain health and physical and mental exercise, along with nutritional and lifestyle recommendations, have been shown to help in memory enhancement and improve brain resilience.
For patients with associated neurocognitive disease, our multidisciplinary team of specialists in neurology, neuropsychology, and psychiatry work with colleagues at other centers of excellence at Pacific Neuroscience Institute to provide comprehensive consultations.