What is short-term memory loss?
Short-term memory loss occurs when you forget what you heard, saw, or did in the recent past. Many people experience it as they grow older. It may also be a sign of more serious conditions, such as dementia, a brain injury or a mental health problem.
Your brain stores short-term memory as a way to retain bits and pieces of information that it has just learned. Working memory and short-term memory are considered to be two types of short-term memory, according to scientists. Most people don’t distinguish between these two types of short-term memory.
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What causes short-term memory loss?
Short-term memory loss may be caused by various factors. They include:
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s and Lewy dementia
- Brain tumors
- Bleeding or blood clots in the brain
- Brain injuries, including concussions
- Head infections
- Mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression
- Substance use disorder
- Various conditions or illnesses that harm the brain, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease
- Vitamin B-12 is one of the most commonly deficient vitamins or minerals
- Inadequate sleep
- Medications such as statins, anxiety medication and seizure medications
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
There are some cases of short-term memory loss whose cause can’t be determined.
It is possible to suffer from short-term memory loss, which is progressive, meaning it gets worse with time and might lead to long-term memory loss. Some of these conditions include dementia related to Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Some treatments may be able to alleviate the symptoms of these diseases, but no cure exists.
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What are the symptoms of short-term memory loss?
A common symptom is forgetting recent events. This can lead to:
- Repeatedly asking the same questions
- Missing something that you just put down
- Forgetting what has just happened
- Not remembering something you read or saw recently
How is short-term memory loss diagnosed?
You will be asked a number of questions about your memory loss, such as how long you’ve been experiencing it and what you’ve tried to do about it.
You will also be asked about:
- The general condition of your health and your lifestyle
- Recent injuries or illnesses
- Medications you take
- How much alcohol you drink
- Your emotional state
- Your diet and sleeping habits
They will then perform a general physical examination to detect any potential medical problems. In addition to ordering blood tests to diagnose the cause of your symptoms, they may order tests to determine whether you have vitamin deficiencies or infection.
MRIs or CT scans can be ordered by your doctor to determine if your memory loss is caused by a physical problem.
They may also recommend cognitive tests to determine what is causing your problems. They may include:
- Test your attention span by completing a task or thought
- Taking a look at your calendar or asking where you live
- Asking you some basic math questions and spelling questions
- We are asking you to think about how you might solve problems in various situations, for example, if you found a wallet on the ground
- Discussion about the recent events
You may be referred to a specialist, such as a psychologist if you think there is anything that might be causing your memory loss.
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Treatment for short term memory loss
Memory loss can be treated in different ways depending on the underlying cause. Here are some options:
- Surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Blood clot medications or surgery may be necessary in cases of bleeding in the brain
- Head injuries may require cognitive therapy
- Mental health conditions may require therapy or medication
- Switching medications
- Nutritional supplements
- Rehabilitation for substance abuse
There is no cure for some types of short-term memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
Medication may slow the progression of the disease and ease symptoms, such as short-term memory loss.
When the underlying cause of your short-term memory loss is treated, you will often experience improvements. Getting treated early for some of these conditions – such as blood clots or bleeding – is key to avoiding permanent damage.
A change of medication or the use of supplements are some of the treatments that work right away. There are other treatments that might take longer, such as treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse issues. An injury may or may not permanently damage your memory.
Home remedies for short-term memory
It has been suggested that certain vitamins might help improve your short-term memory. The fact that these supplements are safe does not mean that there is conclusive evidence to suggest they help memory loss.
However, they may be beneficial in some cases. If you are suffering from short-term memory loss due to a B-12 deficiency, a B-12 supplement may help.
Other memory loss supplements seem to have mixed results. It is common for memory and concentration problems to be treated with ginkgo biloba. An analysis of 36 studies has concluded that, although this supplement is safe, it is not effective in preventing dementia.
A supplement called fish oil might also help you recall things. Fish oil isn’t likely to benefit healthy older adults cognitively, according to a Cochrane review. Still, the researchers suggested further research be conducted.
It has been reported that curcumin, an extract of turmeric, can improve cognitive function, including memory.
Several pathways associated with Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to be positively affected by curcumin, according to a review of curcumin’s effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers need to do more research, however, to determine conclusively whether curcumin can improve memory.
You can try some lifestyle modifications even if you can’t improve short-term memory loss with supplements, including:
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Healthy eating should include fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats
- Brain-challenging activities such as puzzles are also important
- Keeping your home free of clutter will help decrease distractions
- Keeping yourself on track with to-do lists and schedules
Improving short-term memory
It is common to suggest using mnemonics to help improve short-term memory. The concept of mnemonics refers to attaching a term, phrase, or image to something. Mnemonics can be used to remember things like the number of days in a month. “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November …” It’s also great for remembering names, such as “Alex wore a black hoodie.”
Objects can also be placed on a table as another trick. Make sure you memorize them within 30 seconds. After you have taken the objects away, try to write down as many as you can within 30 seconds.
Memory can also be improved by engaging your brain in activities like Sudoku and crossword puzzles, as well as reading generally.
Risks of short-term memory loss
It is the underlying conditions rather than the memory loss itself that is the main risk factor for short-term memory loss. It is possible to live alone for a long time with short-term memory loss, but it can be quite difficult if it becomes severe. For example, short-term memory loss can make it difficult to:
- Take care of yourself
- Safely take medication
There are no serious side effects from short-term memory loss treatments. A well-trained, experienced doctor will reduce the likelihood of side effects following surgery or medication.
When to see a doctor
You should consult your doctor about short-term memory loss if you’re concerned, especially as you age.
Your doctor should be consulted if you experience memory loss or any of its symptoms interfere with your daily life.
Most people experience short-term memory loss as they age, but this type of memory loss usually doesn’t affect their ability to live or function independently.
A change in behavior can also indicate a more serious problem such as dementia, inflammation of the brain, or other conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.
When caught early, most of these potential underlying causes can be treated. Speak to your doctor if you have problems with your short-term memory or other symptoms.