Amnesia is not an autonomic disease, but rather the symptom of an external or internal impact on the brain. This is then no longer able to save new memories or to call up existing ones. The various types differ according to the type of loss and the type of influence, but are not necessarily threatening for those affected.
What is amnesia?
According to FOODEZINE.COM, amnesia is more a symptom of an external or internal impact on the brain. This is then no longer able to save new memories or to call up existing ones.
Parts of the memory that store courses of action are usually not affected by amnesia. As a result, patients are usually still able to drive or tie their shoes. A distinction is made between several forms, even if individual clinical pictures often overlap. The most common form is anterograde memory loss .
Those who suffer do not succeed, or only to a limited extent, in grasping and saving new content. Retrograde amnesia, on the other hand, erases all memories from the period before the brain damage. This condition can last for seconds, days, weeks or months and is often associated with anterograde memory loss.
Another and at the same time the most severe form is global memory impairment. Those affected are unable to absorb new content. At the same time, they cannot access memories from years or decades ago. The global loss of memory is irreversible and differentiates itself from the transient global amnesia. This also affects all memory contents, but only lasts a few hours.
The causes of amnesia are varied and not always recognizable. There are many factors that trigger or promote its occurrence. A brain disorder can develop as a result of traumatic brain injuries , epileptic seizures , strokes , dementia or emotional distress.
Alcohol, drug or medication abuse can also lead to memory loss. Brain trauma often leads to retrograde memory impairment. There is no connection between the duration of the memory gap and the extent of the damage. Those affected by transient global memory loss often suffer from psychological stress or pronounced physical exertion. In psychogenic amnesia, patients suppress traumatic experiences.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
Depending on the clinical picture, the patients show different symptoms and complaints. As a rule, however, the parts of the memory that are responsible for storing action sequences are not affected. Once learned, skills can still be accessed. Most often, patients suffer from anterograde amnesia.
You are no longer able to capture and save new content, or only to a limited extent. Patients with retrograde amnesia have no memories of the period prior to brain damage. The most severe form is global and irreversible amnesia, which erases all memories. Patients with psychogenic amnesia show symptoms and behaviors that are not always understandable for outsiders, as they suppress traumatic events from memory.
The various symptoms such as confusion , disorientation and more or less pronounced memory gaps make the everyday life of the patient significantly more difficult. Missing memories lead to a loss of identity and cause psychological and emotional stress . Amnesia changes the behavior, the course of action and the relationships between those affected and other people.
The inability to grasp new content and recall memories can lead to underperformance at school or at work. Since amnesia can also occur as a secondary disease after a stroke or due to a tumor, the memory gaps are often accompanied by the symptoms of the underlying disease, which leads to further complications.
Diagnosis & course
Extensive examinations are essential for reliable diagnosis and research into the causes. In many cases, however, a clear diagnosis is not possible. At the beginning, a detailed discussion with the patient (anamnesis) is essential. Statements from family and friends are also helpful in identifying the type of memory loss.
In addition, a test to check long and short-term memory is usually carried out to assess the extent to which the memory is damaged. Computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging is performed to discover impairments in the brain and detect bleeding or tumors . An EEG measures brain waves to rule out epilepsy as a cause. Examining the brain for blood supply using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) can detect symptoms of Alzheimer’s or epilepsy.
Memory loss is unpredictable and usually breaks out as quickly as it ends. Exceptions are diseases of older people such as dementia. Here, however, it is impossible to precisely determine the level of memory. Those affected usually still remember events from early childhood and adolescence, while the times behind them gradually disappear. Sick people often remember things in great detail that they had forgotten for decades.
They are familiar with the names of former classmates while forgetting those of their own children. Occasionally, when the amnesia is psychological, the brain can recover from the damage it has suffered, gradually causing memories to return.
The consequences of amnesia are far-reaching and can lead to various problems in everyday life and at work. First, memory loss alters daily actions and personal relationships, which can lead to long-term emotional stress and mental disorders. At work and at school, amnesia can lead to a decline in performance and, as a result, to isolation of the person concerned.
Possible memory gaps can increase the level of suffering, for example if the amnesia occurs as a result of an accident or if the forgotten memories are of emotional importance for the person concerned. Not only the memory loss itself, but also the possible causes (tumor, stroke, etc.) can lead to complications if the underlying disease is not treated in good time or improperly.
Amnesia as a result of a tumor is accompanied by further memory disorders which, depending on the affected brain region, can affect the entire body and the function of the organs. When treating amnesia, the risks are based on failed trauma therapy (for psychological causes) and poorly controlled medication (for physical and psychological causes). By taking certain drugs, the amnesia can be accompanied by other symptoms. This can sometimes be seen in fatigue and forgetfulness, which can slow recovery down considerably.
When should you go to the doctor?
If you suspect amnesia, it makes sense to see a doctor if the problems persist or are severe. It is usually sufficient to first see a general practitioner. Memory problems can have a number of causes; a family doctor is able to make an initial assessment. If special treatment is required, he can then refer the patient to an appropriate specialist. Some cities have specialized memory clinics that can do extensive testing for Alzheimer’s and other potential causes.
If family members are aware of relevant illnesses that may be associated with amnesia, patients should expressly point this out when they visit a doctor. For example, one form of Alzheimer’s is largely genetic and typically starts earlier than other types of dementia.
Medicines are also a possible cause of amnesia. Do the memory problems arise after a new medicine has been prescribed? In this case, patients should contact the attending physician.
In addition, a doctor should be consulted if the amnesia occurs close to a fall, accident, stroke, or similar event. Sudden severe amnesia makes it advisable to see a doctor even if no direct connection or reason can be identified. If other acute symptoms such as confusion, visual and hearing problems, disorientation, tingling sensations, shortness of breath or chest pain also appear, a doctor (possibly an emergency doctor or a doctor in the emergency room) should assess the situation in order to rule out a stroke, for example.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of amnesia depends primarily on an unequivocal diagnosis and the success of the treatment can vary widely. With a clear diagnosis and appropriate medication, epilepsy patients can sometimes remain symptom-free for life.
On the other hand, diseases such as signs of old age and dementia can sometimes only be treated to a limited extent or not at all. In these cases, the treatment primarily protects those affected from unnecessary suffering. Most of the drugs used here have serious side effects that lead to further complaints. In the case of psychologically induced amnesia, psychologists and psychiatrists can use therapy to track down the causes. Here depth psychological and behavioral methods have proven themselves.
The form of therapy and any accompanying medicinal measures must be determined by doctors and therapists. Also, relaxation techniques like autogenous training are often incorporated into the treatment. However, it is controversial whether a complete recovery of traumatized patients is always possible. The treatment of memory disorders is lengthy and is always based on the patient’s individual history. This is the only way to have a chance of successful treatment.
In most cases, amnesia results from strong violence on the head or from dramatic events. Affected people complain of large memory lapses and an inability to remember information. As a rule, amnesia is due to an underlying disease that requires appropriate treatment.
After an amnesia has been overcome, appropriate follow-up examinations should take place in any case. Only by means of such examinations can secondary diseases be completely excluded. If the person concerned refrains from such follow-up care, they are exposing themselves to unnecessary danger.
There may be life-threatening danger if the amnesia has left permanent damage. Appropriate follow-up care must take place in order to identify this damage and possible illnesses. In general, the chances of recovery and recovery from amnesia are quite positive.
However, it should be ensured that appropriate follow-up examinations are carried out. Complete and prompt recovery is only possible if appropriate follow-up care takes place. If there is no follow-up care, permanent damage may occur that can no longer be treated or restored afterwards. Even several months after recovering from amnesia, follow-up examinations should still take place to rule out any risk.
Outlook & forecast
First, the causes of the amnesia are critical to making a prognosis. Mild confusion or memory impairment, for example after a fall, is usually not permanent. However, if a form of dementia is the reason for the loss of memory, it can be assumed that the symptoms will worsen.
Meningitis can be treated well with medication, and amnesia can often be reversed. An improvement in memory after a stroke is likely, depending on the severity.
Retrograde amnesia can also resolve itself under certain circumstances. Most of the time, however, memory loss persists. The situation is different with global amnesia. Here the loss of memory is irreversible.
In the case of global amnesia, which only occurs temporarily (transiently), in most cases the memory comes back completely on its own. There are no indications of lasting disturbances. Only a few days after the failure, the feeling of memory-related limitations and irritations can still occur.
In the case of psychological causes for amnesia, for example due to the repressing of an event, the prognosis depends on the individual case. With the help of psychotherapy , certain memory contents can be brought back into the consciousness of the patient and traumatic experiences can be worked on together with the therapist.
Avoiding harmful substances and a mindful and healthy lifestyle are the only ways to prevent brain damage from external agents. Appropriate exercise of the body and mind through memory training, exercise and relaxation methods helps the brain on the jumps. For amnesia patients, it is beneficial to connect to familiar things and to surround oneself with familiar things.
You can do that yourself
Thanks to advances in medicine, more and more people are reaching a considerable age. And in order to always guarantee a good quality of life, physical and mental fitness play a role. Everyone can do something for the latter. The brain, its ability to concentrate and memory can be kept at a high functional level through sensible nutrition , among other things . The omega3 fatty acid DHA plays a particularly important role in this. This is contained in cold water fish. New study results have shown that older people in particular should eat fish regularly. This cuts the risk of dementia by almost half.
The brain does not store all perceptions. Thus, occasional memory lapses are not a cause for concern. In order to prevent increasing memory loss, those affected can train their brain power . There are various exercises that help develop individual memory systems. One is to link content to images. This method can be used at any time. A walk, for example, helps to permanently learn the names of various spring flowers. Writing down everyday facts also supports the memory process.
In general, any form of socializing is always a good remedy for amnesia. Talking to friends can help, because they train the ability to concentrate. In addition to a balanced diet, regular exercise is an important factor. Music and dance can also help to increase memory.