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Amnesia is a medical term where one loses memories including previous experiences, information, facts, names and faces. Those with amnesia have the inability to recall any information that was stored in their memory. Many people with amnesia have problems knowing who they are, their own likes and dislikes and problems retaining new information. There are many different types of amnesia including anterograde, retrograde, transient global, traumatic, Wernike-Korsakoffs psychosis, childhood, source, post-hypnotic, or hysterical (very rare).

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Amnesia

There are many different causes of amnesia, with the cause usually directed to the type of amnesia. Any type of damage to the parts of the brain can theoretically cause amnesia in some form and can be mild to severe. Many cases of amnesia are caused by a trauma (physical or mental), being exposed to harmful substances, poor diet, brain tumor or seizures. Amnesia caused by damage or injury is typically from a stroke, brain inflammation, lack of oxygen to the brain, Celiac disease, brain hemorrhage, drinking alcohol for a long period of time, Alzheimers disease or dementia or taking some types of medications.

Psychogenic amnesia, also called dissociative amnesia, can be caused by any time of emotional trauma or shock such as being in a terrorist attack, natural disaster, child or sexual abuse or in a violent crime. Risk factors for amnesia are similar to the potential causes such as seizures, stroke, alcohol abuse, brain surgery or trauma to the head. The main complications of amnesia have to do with daily activities, personal relationships and social environments. Work and school are often affected when someone is suffering from amnesia. Because of these complications, you should consult a doctor right away as you might need to change your current living environment.

Signs, Symptoms and Tests of Amnesia

The signs and symptoms vary slightly based on the type of amnesia especially considering anterograde or retrograde amnesia. With anterograde amnesia, symptoms relate to not being able to retain new information while retrograde amnesia causes people not to be able to remember past information. The majority of amnesia sufferers have anterograde amnesia and no short term memory. Additional symptoms include being confused or disoriented a lot of the time, false memories, tremors, seizures and the inability to remember places or faces. Diagnosing amnesia requires a variety of tests including a neurological exam, MRI, CT scan and blood tests. Diagnosis will help doctors determine the cause of the amnesia, the type and how best to move forward.

Treatment, Drugs and Prevention of Amnesia

Treatment for amnesia will depend on a number of factors including the type of amnesia and the cause. Occupational therapy is a common treatment for most types of amnesia, which uses different methods to help the individual use past memories to create new ones and improve social skills. Additionally, mental illnesses will also be treated in conjunction with the amnesia such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder or depression. There arent medications that can help with amnesia and there is no guaranteed recovery for the medical condition.

It is advised that someone with amnesia not drink alcohol heavily, protect themselves when driving or riding their bike, treat infections so they dont infect the brain and see their doctor if they have seizures or stroke. To prevent amnesia, always eat a healthy diet to avoid diseases that may cause the disease, get therapy or counseling following traumatic events and always be careful to avoid significant injury to the head in an accident. Proper medical treatment can help with the ongoing symptoms of amnesia.