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Reversible Memory Loss

Posted Mar 02 2013 11:56pm
What if it is not Alzheimer's or dementia but instead is a reversible cause of memory loss than can be treated and cured?

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Reversible Memory Loss
In the comments section and via email I often hear readers lament that they suspect dementia but cannot get their loved one to go to the doctor for testing. This really is a very common problem.

One of the best solutions is to talk to the doctor and then get the doctor to tell the patient that he is going to conduct an age appropriate physical that will include a series of test. A good doctor who is experienced working with dementia patients should know what to do, and how to accomplish the mission.

While it is not well known, there are a long list of medical problems that can cause memory loss or dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be successfully treated, and your doctor can screen you for conditions that cause reversible memory impairment.

I would pay particular attention to hypothyroidism, vitamin B, and vitamin D deficiencies.

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You might assume that the doctor routinely checks for these reversible causes of memory loss. This in not always the case. For example, a test might not fall into the category that throws up a red flag when blood tests are given. They might fall into a category that can be described as "suspicious". Typically doctors give hundreds of blood test and then do not usually peruse all of them closely. As a result, they might not notice that the result is suspicious and do appropriate follow up.

So imagine you know someone this is suffering from memory loss that can be reversed, but they are not aggressively pursuing options with a doctor. We have a long list of readers that experienced dementia like symptoms;  and then, were given a single medication that made those symptoms go away.

Reversible Causes of Memory loss

Possible causes of reversible memory loss include
Medications. A single medication or a certain combination of medications may result in forgetfulness or confusion.

Minor head trauma or injury. A head injury from a fall or accident — even an injury that doesn't result in a loss of consciousness — may cause memory problems.

Depression or other mental health disorders. Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities.

Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.

Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency — common in older adults — can cause memory problems.

Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) slows the processing of nutrients to create energy for cells (metabolism). Hypothyroidism can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.

Tumors. A tumor in the brain may cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms.

When to see your doctor

If you're concerned about memory loss, see your doctor. He or she can conduct tests to judge the degree of memory impairment and diagnose the cause.

Your doctor is likely to have a number of questions for you, and you will benefit by having a family member or friend along to answer some questions based on his or her observations. Questions may include
  • How long have you been experiencing memory problems?
  • What medications — including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements — do you take regularly? What is the dosage of each?
  • Have you recently started a new drug?
  • What tasks do you find too difficult to perform or finish?
  • What have you done to cope with memory problems? Have these things helped you?
  • Do you drink alcohol? How much do you drink daily?
  • Have you recently been in an accident, fallen or injured your head?
  • Have you recently been sick?
  • Have you recently felt sad, depressed or anxious?
  • Have you recently experienced a major loss, change or stressful event in your life?
  • What is your daily routine? How has your routine changed recently?
In addition to a general physical exam, your doctor will likely conduct relatively brief question-and-answer tests to judge your memory and other thinking skills. He or she will also order blood tests and brain imaging tests that can help identify reversible causes of memory problems and dementia-like symptoms.

You may also be referred to a specialist in diagnosing dementia or memory disorders, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist or geriatrician.

Source Mayo Clinic

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