Sudden Memory Loss Symptoms and Causes

Sudden memory loss symptoms can be quite dramatic. Most people are aware that in Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) there is a slow and progressive loss of memory. However, memory loss can also be sudden and there are many causes for it.

In young people one of the most common causes of sudden memory loss is head trauma. Both blunt and penetrating head trauma can have devastating effects on many brain functions including memory. Even mild to moderate head trauma can lead to confusion, loss of recent memory and poor concentration. Many individuals who suffer from blunt head trauma often take months or even years to get back to normal.

There are some drugs that can also lead to sudden memory loss. In the last decade there have been reports that statin drugs used to lower blood cholesterol can affect memory. The few reports indicate that individuals who started to take statins suddenly developed memory loss which was sudden and reversed after the statins were discontinued. There are also a great many brain medications used to treat schizophrenia, psychosis and bipolar which can impair memory, concentration and lead to poor judgment. Narcotics and other pain medication care a common cause of sudden memory lapses. Another related cause of sudden memory loss is use of illicit drugs like LSD, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Another very common cause of short term memory loss symptoms is a stroke. Strokes can occur without warning usually in elderly individuals. The stroke may be associated with paralysis of the body, loss of speech, difficulty swallowing and/or loss of bladder or bowel incontinence. The memory loss can be moderate to severe and is not always recoverable. Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sedentary life style and high cholesterol levels in blood. Asides from stroke, other brain disorders that are also linked to sudden loss of memory include brain tumors, rupture of aneurysms, or brain infections (meningitis).

Loss of memory symptoms can also result from persistently high blood pressure. High blood pressure can selectively damage some parts of mid brain and lead to minute strokes that may present with loss of memory or change in personality.

Seizures can also lead to sudden loss of memory. Moreover, individuals with seizure also take anti seizure medications that also have profound side effects which further impair concentration and judgment.

One of the rare causes of memory loss is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Also known as mad cow disease, this disease is acquired by eating infected cow brain. The disease rapidly spreads to the brain and causes severe dementia.

Irrespective of the cause, loss of memory symptoms includes:

Difficulty remembering common words when speaking
Asking the same questions over and over again
Mixing up words in speech
Being unable to complete familiar tasks like driving to school or going shopping
Misplacing items in inappropriate places
Getting lost in familiar environments
Undergoing sudden changes in mood or behavior without any valid reason
Unable to follow simple directions

Sudden memory loss symptoms generally have a better prognosis than Alzheimer’s disease if the cause is discovered and treated promptly.