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Memory loss and dementia
The word “dementia” is an umbrella
term used to describe a set of
symptoms, including impairment
in memory, reasoning, judgment,
language and other thinking skills.
Dementia begins gradually in
most cases, worsens over time and
significantly impairs a person’s abilities
in work, social interactions and
Often, memory loss is one of the
first or more-recognizable signs of
dementia. Other early signs may
• Asking the same questions
• Forgetting common words when
• Mixing words up — saying “bed”
instead of “table,” for example
• Taking longer to complete familiar
tasks, such as following a recipe
• Misplacing items in inappropriate
places, such as putting a wallet in a
kitchen drawer
• Getting lost while walking or driving
around a familiar neighborhood
• Undergoing sudden changes in
mood or behavior for no apparent
• Becoming less able to follow
Diseases that cause progressive damage
to the brain - and consequently result
in dementia - include:
• Alzheimer’s disease, the most
common cause of dementia
• Vascular dementia (multi-infarct
• Frontotemporal dementia
• Lewy body dementia
Each of these conditions has a
somewhat different disease process
(pathology). Memory impairment isn’t
always the first sign of disease, and the
type of memory problems may vary.
Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment is a notable
change in thinking skills that’s limited,
for the most part, to a narrow set of
problems, such as impairment only in
memory. Changes in concentration,
attention or mental quickness may
also be observed. Mild cognitive
impairment generally doesn’t prevent
a person from carrying out everyday
tasks and being socially engaged.
Researchers and physicians are still
learning much about mild cognitive
impairment. For many people, the
condition eventually progresses to
Alzheimer’s disease or another disorder
causing dementia.
Other people experience little
progression in memory loss, and they
don’t develop the whole spectrum of
symptoms associated with dementia.
Reversible causes of
memory loss
Many medical problems can cause
memory loss or other dementia-like
symptoms. Most of these conditions
can be successfully treated, and your
doctor can screen you for conditions
that cause reversible memory
Possible causes of reversible
memory loss include:
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
Depression or other mental
health disorders.
Stress, anxiety
or depression can cause forgetfulness,
confusion, difficulty concentrating
and other problems that disrupt daily
July/Aug 2014