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What Causes Temporary Memory Loss?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2016
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Many conditions and diseases could lead to temporary memory loss. The most common are considered epilepsy, brain tumors, and strokes. Drug and alcohol abuse and certain types of head injuries, such as concussions, can also cause temporary memory loss. Amnesia, which is a general term for memory loss of any type, is typically treated with therapy rather than medications and is generally more common in elderly people.

Temporary memory loss in people with epilepsy is believed to be caused by brain damage resulting from the seizures themselves. After suffering a seizure, the person commonly has no memory of events leading up to or during the seizure. The memory loss usually only lasts for a few hours, but can sometimes last for days or weeks. Frequency of the epileptic events may also have an impact on the duration and severity of memory loss. There is no treatment that is considered effective for epileptic amnesia, but people who have epilepsy typically take medication to reduce the frequency of their seizures.

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Alcohol abuse may impair the brain's ability to generate new cells, while some drugs, such as marijuana, may directly affect the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is believed to process memory. Studies involving the effects of marijuana on memory seem to offer conflicting results. Some studies indicate a few months of marijuana use can have lifelong effects on memory, while other studies show the effects diminishing or disappearing entirely after only a few weeks.

Temporary memory loss is a common side effect of many prescription medications. Some studies show that more than 100 different types of commonly prescribed drugs may cause some type of amnesia. Antidepressants and barbiturates are associated with memory loss, as are some antihistamines and heart medications. In addition, drugs aimed at treating insomnia and pain can have an effect on memory.

The elderly are considered to be at higher risk for temporary memory loss. Strokes are more common in the elderly, as are diseases that cause dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that generally leads to total memory loss, but in its early stages, this is not always the case. Patients may for many years only suffer mild or temporary memory loss. This disease, though the subject of much medical research, is not fully understood.

Drug therapy is generally not considered effective in dealing with temporary memory loss. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, can sometimes help, if the memory loss is not due to injury or disease. Some psychologists have been successful by employing methods such as hypnotism to help patients regain lost memories.

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umbra21
Post 3

@croydon - Actually I think the most recent studies have shown that some consumption of alcohol can actually help your memory over the long term. It's only when people consume way too much that it can become harmful.

The only time I've ever seen someone with temporary memory loss it was a friend who had an accident on her bike and hit her head. She seemed to only have a very vague recollection of where she was and what was going on, but everything came back to her eventually.

croydon
Post 2

@pleonasm - That's one of the reasons I've tried to stick to moderation when it comes to things like drugs and alcohol. Memory loss during old age runs in my family and I definitely don't want to end up like that if I can help it.

It usually starts out with temporary memory loss that eventually just gets worse and worse until the person eventually doesn't seem to remember much at all and definitely nothing recent.

My grandfather went like that and in the end we had to put him in a hospice, even though we hated to do it, because he simply couldn't remember enough to find his own way home, or to remember to stay home in the first place.

It might be inevitable, as something in our genetic structure, but I'd still like to put it off as long as possible.

pleonasm
Post 1

I used to drink a lot when I was a student and more than once I had memory loss. I've always hated the feeling of not knowing how a large chunk of my time was spent, particularly when it was clear that things happened that might have been important.

I do sometimes miss being more of a party goer and drinking with my friends but I absolutely don't miss the temporary memory loss, particularly when it turns out not to be temporary.

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