Amnesia is when a person cannot recall new information or past events. It may go away in a short time or be lasting.
Most memory problems are caused by damage to the brain. It may be due to an accident, an illness like a brain infection, stroke, or certain medicines. Sometimes the cause is not known.
Rarely, an emotional event can cause a problem called dissociative amnesia.
Things that may raise the risk are:
- Head and brain injuries, such as from a car accident
- Brain damage from problems like:
Complications from procedures such as:
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Brain surgery
- Dementia or Alzheimer disease
- Some medicines, such as those used as anesthesia
- Certain changes in the body, such as changes in blood glucose levels or a lack of oxygen
- Recent physical or emotional pain or trauma
|Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia|
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A person may have:
- Problems recalling new or past information
- False memories
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. The doctor will ask about your memory loss and when it started. A loved one or family member may answer these questions if the person cannot.
These tests may be done to look for a cause:
Any cause will need to be treated. The problem may go away on its own. A therapist or support group may be needed for those whose amnesia does not go away.
American Academy of Neurology https://www.aan.com
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians https://www.familydoctor.org
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation http://www.cnsfederation.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Amnesia. Better Health Channel website. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Amnesias. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/function-and-dysfunction-of-the-cerebral-lobes/amnesias. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Kirshner HS. Transient global amnesia: a brief review and update. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2011 Dec;11(6):578-582.
Memory loss (amnesia). NHS Choices website. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/memory-loss-amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Transient global amnesia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/transient-global-amnesia . Accessed September 4, 2020.
Transient global amnesia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/function-and-dysfunction-of-the-cerebral-lobes/transient-global-amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Treating amnesia. Brain & Life—American Academy of Neurology website. Available at: https://www.brainandlife.org/the-magazine/article/app/4/4/20. Accessed September 4, 2020.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
- Review Date: 03/2020
- Update Date: 09/04/2020