Amnesia Symptoms and Prevention

Amnesia is a disorder characterized by not being able to remember or retain information. It presents a series of symptoms that we're about to explore below.
Amnesia Symptoms and Prevention

Last update: 26 July, 2019

The first symptoms of amnesia are, obviously, the partial or total loss of memory. More technically, we can say that this is a memory functioning disorder during which a person is unable to maintain or remember any or some of their previously stored information.

To better understand what amnesia is, it’s important to know what exactly is memory and how it works.

Essentially, memory is the ability of our central nervous system (CNS) to learn, organize, and set events from our past. Thanks to memory, we’re able to store data through complex mechanisms that develop in three stages: coding, storage, and evocation.

As you can see, when a person becomes amnesic, they lose their ability to develop memories and all the processes they entail.

What Leads to Amnesia?

A person detailing a head's brain.
The causes of amnesia can vary. Some of them have to do with direct damage to the brain or other psychological phenomena.

The triggers of this disorder are either organic or functional.

  • In organic causes, some factors cause damage to the brain, whether it be diseases and traumas or even the use of certain drugs such as sedatives.
  • On the other hand, functional causes include psychological factors, such as defense mechanisms. This is what’s known as Post-Traumatic Amnesia syndrome.

Apart from this general classification, there are other causes such as, for example, the amnesia that occurs right after anesthesia. This is because anesthesia causes disruptions in the mechanisms of memory consolidation.

Finally, a case of amnesia can also occur spontaneously. An example of this is global transient amnesia. In these cases, there’s a higher prevalence in middle-aged and elderly people, especially in men. It usually lasts less than 24 hours.

Amnesia: Symptoms and Prevention

Amnesia Symptoms

The symptoms of amnesia revolve around the loss of access to memory. Furthermore, a person with this disorder may be unable to remember all kinds of things such as dates, names, or general data from their past.

Overall, the two main characteristics of amnesia are:

  • Difficulty learning new information after the offset of amnesia. This situation is known as anterograde amnesia.
  • Difficulty remembering past events and information that used to be familiar. In this case, the amnesia is retrograde.

It’s important to keep in mind that memory loss has nothing to do with intelligence or with the general knowledge, awareness, attention span, judgment, personality, or identity of a person.

Among the other symptoms and signs we can highlight:

  • The presence of false memories. That is, amnesic people may be delusional and either create completely invented memories or make them up from genuine memories misplaced in time.
  • There’s confusion or disorientation.
  • Also, there may be a deterioration of personal relationships.

However, amnesia shouldn’t be confused with dementia, as they’re two different terms and conditions. Dementia also involves other cognitive problems that amnesia doesn’t present in addition to memory loss.

Prevention of Amnesia

A woman with a post-it on her forehead.
The treatment of diseases that may affect the brain structure will always be the way to avoid this kind of damage.

Any damage that affects the brain is enough for this disorder to develop, so it’s important to take preventive measures.

For example, avoid alcohol consumption in excess and the long term, as it can cause a deficit of thiamine or vitamin B1.

Also, always make sure to wear a good helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle. Many cases of amnesia are the result of such accidents.

Also, it’s essential to treat any infection quickly and effectively to decrease the chance of it spreading to the brain. It’s also very important to seek immediate medical treatment if you have symptoms that suggest you’re about to have a stroke or a cerebral aneurysm. The most alarming symptoms are a severe headache, feeling numb or paralysis.

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