Why Short-Term Memory Loss May Not Be Related to Dementia

Joel Eisenberg

Experts say symptoms of forgetfulness can be temporary, rooted in physical causes, and not necessarily a sign of cognitive decline.

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Introduction

Repetitive misplacing of one’s keys or other personal items does not guarantee a dementia diagnosis, experts within the Mayo Clinic system agree. See here. However, those same experts punctuate the importance of visiting a doctor once symptoms become chronic.

From the Mayo Clinic website, linked above: The word "dementia" is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia usually begins gradually, worsens over time and impairs a person's abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.

I had recently posted the following article on NewsBreak: “My Friend’s 12-Year-Old Daughter Offered an Explanation of Alzheimer’s Disease That is Now Being Studied By Doctors.” In the article I had stated that I lost my fraternal grandmother, and an uncle on my mother’s side, to Alzheimer’s.

Having witnessed first-hand the plight of my own relatives, and those of others, as well as attending meetings of the Alzheimer’s Association, there is considerably more to the concept of dementia than may seem obvious.

Symptoms and Causes

As my article was specifically about the disease, I did not delve into other memory-related symptoms and causes that may be prone to reversible actions.

I will now. Such possible causes include:

  • Medications: According to this AARP article, medications can cause symptoms that simulate dementia. A list of those medications are in the article, but include anti-anxiety drugs, narcotics, and over-the-counter sleeping pills. (Similarly, medications can also treat memory loss.)

Other potential causes:

  • Any unusual head trauma, either major or minor, can cause substantial memory-related issues.
  • Hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid gland, has been linked to forgetfulness.
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol and illegal drugs, especially when used deliberately to suppress pain, can also suppress cognitive abilities. If such substances are abused long-term, the damage can become permanent.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency, especially in older adults, is a common cause of low-energy and cognitive impairment.
  • Stress or Depression-related issues, which will sometimes lead to ongoing fatigue and symptoms that cause bouts of absent-mindedness.

There are also underlying issues such as elevated ammonia levels in the blood, for example, a key symptom of severe liver illness of the likes that took the life of my father. Left untreated, elevated blood ammonia levels can cause symptoms that mirror dementia, such as confusion and even brain damage.

Conclusion

Regardless of underlying cause, neither short-term nor long-term memory loss should go untreated. If you are worried about your symptoms, or symptoms on the part of someone you know, do what you can to receive medical attention for you or for them.

Testing will reveal if you are truly suffering irreversible dementia, or something curable.

Further, if you believe you are still relatively young and exhibit signs of chronic forgetfulness, your symptoms may indeed reflect something more serious. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease is considered a diagnosis prior to the age of 65.

In any event, early detection, as with any other potential illness, is key.

Thank you for reading. As ever, I hope you have found this article of value.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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