Amnesia can be referred to as the loss of memories, like facts, information and experiences. However having no sense about yourself is a common plot idea in movies and television, real-life amnesia usually doesn't cause a loss of self-identity.
Instead, people with amnesia are usually brilliant and know who they are, but can have trouble learning new information and forming new memories.
Amnesia can be caused by damage to areas of the brain which are important for memory processing. Unlike some moment of memory loss (transient global amnesia), amnesia can be permanent.
There's no single treatment available for treating amnesia, but some of the techniques for increasing memory and psychological support can help people with amnesia and their families to cope.
Causes of Amnesia
Possible causes of neurological amnesia include:
- Encephalitis (Brain inflammation) as a result of infection with a virus like herpes simplex virus, as an autoimmune reaction to cancer somewhere else in the body (paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis), or as an autoimmune reaction in the absence of cancer
Deficiency of adequate oxygen in the brain, for example, from heart attack
, respiratory distress or carbon monoxide poisoning
The chance of developing amnesia might increase if you've experienced:
- Brain surgery, head injury or trauma
- Alcohol abuse
Complications of Amnesia
It will not be possible to recover all the lost memories. Some people with severe memory problems need to live in a supervised situation or extended-care facility.
Symptoms of Amnesia
The two main features of amnesia are:
- Impaired ability to learn new information following the onset of amnesia (anterograde amnesia)
- Impaired ability to recall past events and previously familiar information (retrograde amnesia)
Most people who are suffering with amnesia have problems with short-term memory — they can't retain new information. Recent memories are most likely to be lost, while more remote or deeply ingrained memories can be spared.
An isolated memory loss does not eventually affect a person's intelligence, general knowledge, awareness, attention span, judgment, personality or identity.
People suffering with amnesia normally can understand written and spoken words and can learn skills such as bike riding or piano playing. They may understand that they have a memory disorder.
Amnesia isn't the same as dementia. Dementia can also involve memory loss, but it also includes other significant cognitive problems that further leads to a decline in the ability to carry out daily activities.
A pattern of forgetfulness is also a common symptom of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but the memory and other cognitive problems in MCI aren't as severe as those experienced in dementia.