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General Practice 2023

Amnésia: what é, causes, types and treatment

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Amnésia: what é, causes, types and treatment
Amnésia: what é, causes, types and treatment

Amnesia is the loss of recent or old memory, which can occur in whole or in part, can last a few minutes or hours and disappear without treatment or can lead to permanent memory loss. In addition, amnesia can be retrograde, when you don't remember older things, or anterograde, when the memory loss happens after the event responsible for the memory loss, making it more difficult to build new memories.

This situation can be triggered by accidents in which there is a strong blow to the head, for example, or be a consequence of medication use, chronic infections, neuronal diseases or the presence of a brain tumor. Thus, if recent or old memory loss is noticed, it is important that the neurologist is consulted so that tests are carried out and treatment can be started, which may involve treating the condition responsible for the amnesia and performing psychotherapy.

Types of amnesia

Amnesia can be classified into two main types according to time in:

  • Anterograde amnesia,in which memory loss occurs after the event responsible for the amnesia, remembering only old events and it may be difficult to form new memories;
  • Retrograde amnesia,in which the person cannot remember the things that happened before the event responsible for the amnesia, but the person is able to form new memories.

In addition, according to the characteristics and cause, amnesia can be classified into some types, namely:

  • Transient global amnesia,with sudden memory loss for a few hours and full recovery after about 24 hours.
  • Psychogenic amnesia, which is a type of transient amnesia that occurs as a result of some psychological trauma, and can be retrograde or anterograde;
  • Wernicke-Korsakof syndrome,which occurs mainly in people who are malnourished or who make recurrent use of alcoholic beverages and which is characterized by a lack of vitamin B1, resulting in a of acute mental confusion and more prolonged amnesia, in addition to unsteady gait, paralysis of eye movements, double vision, mental confusion and drowsiness.

Thus, if memory loss is noticed, even if transient, it is important that the neurologist is consulted so that tests are carried out to help identify the cause of the memory loss and, thus, initiate the best treatment.

Possible causes

Amnesia can be a consequence of several situations, the main ones being:

  • Head trauma;
  • Recurrent use of some medications without medical indication, such as amphotericin B or lithium;
  • Vitamin deficiencies, especially thiamine;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Hepatic encephalitis;
  • Cerebral Vascular Accident;
  • Brain infection;
  • Seizures;
  • Brain tumor;
  • Alzheimer's disease and other dementias;
  • Lack of oxygen (hypoxia);
  • Changes and psychological trauma.

To identify the cause of amnesia, the doctor usually does an analysis of the person's family history and a detailed assessment of the person's medical history. It is also important that during this analysis the frequency of memory failure is evaluated. In some cases, when amnesia is associated with situations other than neurological or psychological, the doctor may recommend performing more specific tests to identify the cause.

How the treatment is done

Treatment for amnesia will depend on the cause and its severity.So far there are no drugs that can cure amnesia, however medical treatment can be aimed at treating the diseases that accompany amnesia, such as infections and tumors, for example. In the case of Wernicke-Korsakof syndrome, despite vitamin B1 replacement, memory is not restored and, therefore, treatment is only aimed at preventing the progression of memory loss.

For most cases, psychological follow-up and cognitive rehabilitation are indicated so that the patient learns to deal with memory loss and stimulates other types of memory to compensate for what has been lost. The treatment also aims to make the patient develop strategies to live with memory loss, especially in cases of permanent loss.

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