How to Say It: Am-ne-ze-uh
Amnesia is when a person cannot recall new information or past events. It may go away in a short time or be lasting.
Most memory problems are caused by damage to the brain. It may be due to an accident, an illness like a brain infection, stroke, or certain medicines. Sometimes the cause is not known.
Rarely, an emotional event can cause a problem called dissociative amnesia.
Things that may raise the risk are:
Areas of the Brain Affected by Dementia
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A person may have:
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. The doctor will ask about your memory loss and when it started. A loved one or family member may answer these questions if the person cannot.
These tests may be done to look for a cause:
Any cause will need to be treated. The problem may go away on its own. A therapist or support group may be needed for those whose amnesia does not go away.
There are no current guidelines to prevent this problem.
American Academy of Neurology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation
Amnesia. Better Health Channel website. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Amnesias. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/function-and-dysfunction-of-the-cerebral-lobes/amnesias. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Kirshner HS. Transient global amnesia: a brief review and update. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2011 Dec;11(6):578-582.
Memory loss (amnesia). NHS Choices website. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/memory-loss-amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Transient global amnesia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/transient-global-amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Transient global amnesia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/function-and-dysfunction-of-the-cerebral-lobes/transient-global-amnesia. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Treating amnesia. Brain & Life—American Academy of Neurology website. Available at: https://www.brainandlife.org/the-magazine/article/app/4/4/20. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 2/19/2021