Amnestic Disorders are a group of disorders that involve loss of memories previously established, loss of the ability to create new memories, or loss of the ability to learn new information.1 In general, Amnestic Disorders are caused by structural or chemical damage to parts of the brain.
People who suffer from Amnestic Disorders usually experience difficulty recalling events that happened in the past or facts they have learned prior to diagnosis. This type of amnesia is known as retrograde amnesia. Some people may also experience symptoms of anterograde amnesia, which involves the inability to learn new facts or retain new memories.
There are various causes of Amnestic Disorders, which range from severe trauma to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, encephalitis, and seizures.
Symptoms of Amnestic Disorders
In addition to problems with information recall and the formation of new memories, people with amnestic disorders are often disoriented with respect to time and space, which means that they are unable to tell an examiner where they are or what day of the week it is.
Common symptoms associated with Amnestic Disorders include:
- Loss of memory
- Disorientation with time and space
- Lack of insight to their loss of memory
- Difficulty learning or recalling information
- In some cases, awareness of their loss of memory but unable to understand why
Diagnosis of Amnestic Disorders
In many cases, Amnestic Disorders are self-reported if the person realizes that his or her memory loss is present. It is also common that the disorder is diagnosed or realized by a friend, relative or employer, as they might become aware and concerned of the person’s memory loss.
Those who experience head trauma or substance abuse may be taken to the emergency room, where a doctor will examine the patient for symptoms of traumatic injury, substance abuse or a general medical condition. The doctor may also order imaging studies to identify specific areas that are affected. Blood and urine samples are often taken to determine the chemical that the patient has been exposed to. Cognitive tests also may be done, as the most common test is mental state examination. This type of test evaluates dementia, which is caused by disturbances in cognitive functioning.
Treatment for Amnestic Disorders
It is imperative that you talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms relating to Amnestic Disorders so that you may receive the proper diagnosis. While there are no treatments that have been proven effective to cure Amnestic Disorders, it has been reported that most patients slowly recover over time and can recover memories that were formed before the onset of the disorder.
For those who have the signs of an Amnestic Disorder and think that it may be due to alcohol abuse, treatment with thiamin may stop the disorder from developing. In some cases, the disorder may be severe enough that the patient will need daily in-home care, but in a number of cases, the patient recovers completely. Avoiding exposure to environmental toxins, substance abuse and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help to prevent some forms of amnestic disorders.