Symptoms A-Z

5 Causes of Memory Loss and Forgetfulness

Understand your forgetfulness symptoms, including 6 causes & treatment options for your forgetfulness.

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Contents

  1. Symptoms
  2. Causes
  3. 6 Possible Forgetfulness Conditions
  4. Treatments and Relief
  5. FAQs
  6. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  7. Statistics

Forgetfulness Symptoms

How many times have you found yourself frantically rifling through a purse or backpack for keys? Forgotten the day of the week? Or even forgotten the name of that person you just met?

We all forget things every now and then, but sometimes, if not addressed, memory issues can begin to significantly interfere with day-to-day life. It is important to follow-up on symptoms of forgetfulness and get appropriate care.

Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging, so it is important to be able to differentiate between age-related symptoms of memory loss and indicators of more serious conditions.

Forgetfulness symptoms of normal aging:

  • Forgetting where the car is parked in a full parking lot
  • Getting lost in a new neighborhood or city
  • Missing a monthly payment or a due date for an assignment
  • Forgetting the day of week and remembering it later
  • Forgetting which word to use
  • Misplacing things occasionally
  • Forgetting the name of a person you just met

Forgetfulness symptoms of serious memory loss/difficulty:

  • Forgetting the route home
  • Getting lost in a familiar location
  • Missing payments for multiple, monthly bills or difficulty keeping up with average workload
  • Losing track of the date, time, or year
  • Trouble having a conversation
  • Frequently losing things and being unable to find them
  • Forgetting names of family members or close friends

Forgetfulness Causes

Causes of forgetfulness are varied and can be separated into three main categories: medical, psychological, and environmental.

Medical forgetfulness causes:

  • Dementia: Dementia is an umbrella medical term used to describe several diseases that cause difficulties in memory and thinking. Dementia is a serious cause of memory loss that interferes with a person's independence and daily activities.
  • Thyroid Issues: A malfunctioning thyroid can affect memory (as well as disturb sleep and cause depression, both of which can be causes of forgetfulness).
  • Medications: That cold medication you are taking for that runny nose may be contributing to your forgetfulness. Cold and allergy remedies as well as many other medications such as antidepressants and blood pressure drugs are known to cause confusion and forgetfulness.

Psychological forgetfulness causes:

  • Depression: Feeling significantly down can cause forgetfulness, confusion, and other problems that disrupt your day-to-day.
  • Anxiety: Those with serious worries often have trouble remembering things due to many other issues competing for their attention.

Environmental forgetfulness causes:

  • Head trauma or injury: Any situation that results in a blow to the head (car accident, fall, sports such as football or rugby, etc.) can produce symptoms of memory loss.
  • Lack of sleep: A good night's rest is the brain's way of recovering each day in order to work well the next. If your brain is struggling due to lack of sleep your memory will struggle as well.
  • Stress: When aspects of life such as family, school, work, etc. become overwhelming, it can be difficult to be mindful to all of these moving parts.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can interfere with short-term memory even after the effects of the alcohol have worn off. Chronic alcoholism can lead to long-term memory issues.

6 Possible Forgetfulness Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced forgetfulness. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or "underactive thyroid," means that the thyroid gland in the neck does not produce enough of its hormones. This causes a slowing of the body's metabolism.

The condition can occur due to autoimmune disease; any surgery or radiation treatment to the thyroid gland; some medications; pregnancy; or consuming too much or too little iodine. It is often found among older women with a family history of the disease.

Common symptoms include fatigue, constantly feeling cold, weight gain, slow heart rate, and depression. If left untreated, these and other symptoms can worsen until they lead to very low blood pressure and body temperature, and even coma.

Diagnosis is made through a simple blood test.

Hypothyroidism is easily managed with daily oral medication. The patient usually starts feeling better after a couple of weeks and may even lose some extra weight. It's important for the patient to be monitored by a doctor and have routine blood testing so that the medication can be kept at the correct levels.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Condition involving inability to understand or express words

Any new speech difficulty should be seen by a doctor immediately because it could be the sign of brain or nerve damage.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: difficulty speaking or understand words or finding the right word, loss of vision, difficulty coming up with the names of common objects or people, arm weakness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Condition causing slurred speech

Slurring of one's speech could be from substance intoxication or from a stroke. A doctor needs to make this distinction. You should see one immediately.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: slurred speech, arm weakness, hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there, odd walking gait, hard testicle lump

Urgency: Emergency medical service

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Post-concussion syndrome

Post-concussion syndrome is a set of symptoms that can occur after a head injury. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that involves confusion and memory loss, with or without a loss of consciousness. Post-concussion syndrome typically occurs after concussions but may also occur after more severe head injuries.

Symptoms include headaches that begin days to months after the injury and can be present as(https://www.buoyhealth.com/symptoms-a-z/vision-changes/), difficulty concentrating, and mood changes.

Treatments include at-home remedies, medications for headaches or to address mood changes, as well as talk therapy.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, nausea, anxiety, mild or moderate headache, depressed mood

Symptoms that never occur with post-concussion syndrome: severe headache

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is a lifelong condition movement disorder. It is caused by the malfunction and death of nerve cells which results in symptoms like tremors.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation

Symptoms that always occur with parkinson's disease: symptoms of parkinsonism

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Brain tumor or mass

In medical terms, "mass" and "tumor" mean the same thing: the unexplained, out-of-place growth of tissue anywhere in the body, including the brain.

The cause of any sort of brain tumor is unknown. Some originate in the brain, while others spread from cancers growing in other parts of the body.

Symptoms may include increasing headaches; nausea and vomiting; blurred or double vision; loss of sensation in an arm or leg; loss of balance; confusion; speech difficulties; or seizures.

If symptoms persist, it is important to see a medical provider so that any treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Diagnosis is made through neurological examination, CT scan, and/or MRI.

If the mass or tumor is found to be benign, that means it is not cancer and not harmful. It may or may not be treated.

If it is malignant, that means it is cancer and must be treated. This will involve some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, followed by specialized therapy to help with recovery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, irritability

Symptoms that always occur with brain tumor or mass: focal neurological symptoms

Urgency: In-person visit

Forgetfulness Treatments and Relief

If you notice that your symptoms of forgetfulness mostly fall into the age-related category, try changing your routine as the first line of treatment or using simple tools to boost your memory and help you think clearly.

  • Get a good night's sleep: Consistently getting a solid eight or nine hours of sleep at night can work wonders for your memory and concentration.
  • Write things down: Jotting things down on paper or even in an app on your phone is a great way to stimulate your brain and keep details in your memory.
  • Set reminders: A pop-up reminder on your phone or computer is a quick way to make sure you don't forget the little details during your day-to-day.
  • Make a schedule: Making a schedule or creating lists that outline tasks you need to accomplish will help you remember the important things.
  • Inventory your medications: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you suspect that a new medication is keeping you in a fog and discuss alternatives you can take instead.

If your forgetfulness symptoms are significantly interfering with your day-to-day, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she will perform tests to determine the cause and degree of your memory impairment.

After the initial evaluation, your doctor may suggest:

  • Therapy: Working with a professional is the best way to address underlying problems like depression or anxiety that may be contributing to memory problems.
  • Medication: There are currently several medications available for treating some forms of dementia.

Call 911 and see a doctor immediately if you have the following symptoms:

FAQs About Forgetfulness

Here are some frequently asked questions about forgetfulness.

Why do I have sudden forgetfulness and confusion?

Sudden forgetfulness and confusion can be a sign of dehydration. As you stand, especially if you have been sitting for an extended period of time, you may have a decrease of blood flow to your brain. This may cause dizziness, confusion, and even small bouts of forgetfulness. If the forgetfulness and confusion persists or recurs, seek medical evaluation.

Can headaches cause forgetfulness?

No, headaches themselves do not commonly cause memory loss. Memory loss is a serious symptom that can be caused by a process affecting the brain. A headache and memory loss can be signs indicating a stroke. If you are experiencing headache and associated memory loss, you should seek medical evaluation.

Why am I so forgetful when I'm pregnant?

Currently, we do not know why pregnancy affects cognitive function. A large analysis of prior studies showed that memory, executive functioning, and mood were negatively affected during pregnancy. Currently, untested hypotheses attribute this to the stress of caring for and carrying a child. Additionally, the increase in hormones present during pregnancy may affect memory.

Is forgetfulness a sign of anxiety?

Yes, forgetfulness or memory problems may be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety and worry uses mental faculties that are then unavailable to both commit items to memory and to learn new skills. While some stress is useful to increase functioning, excess stress and anxiety may leave an individual unable to rest and contribute to poor performance and burnout.

Why am I tired and forgetful all the time?

Fatigue and memory loss are common symptoms across the lifespan and may be attributable to many diagnoses. The most common cause of fatigue and memory loss is sleep deprivation. Inadequate quantity or quality of sleep can have a serious effect on short term memory and can lead to fatigue and a lack of attention throughout the day.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Forgetfulness

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Are you having difficulty concentrating or thinking through daily activities?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Have you had an X-Ray or a CT scan of your head or neck?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having forgetfulness

Forgetfulness Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced forgetfulness have also experienced:

  • 9% Fatigue
  • 5% Headache
  • 4% Difficulty Concentrating

People who have experienced forgetfulness were most often matched with:

  • 41% Condition Involving Inability To Understand Or Express Words
  • 41% Condition Causing Slurred Speech
  • 17% Hypothyroidism

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Forgetfulness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having forgetfulness