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What is amnesia?

Amnesia is a general term for a syndrome that involves substantial difficulty learning and retaining new information. Some forms of amnesia, such as transient global amnesia, are transient and completely reversible.

Other treatable causes of memory loss include: medication side effects, drug and alcohol use, metabolic conditions, such as thyroid disease or vitamin deficiencies. Some forms of amnesia occur because of isolated damage to the brain, such as in Korsakoff’s syndrome.

Although memory loss is often the earliest sign of a progressive dementing disorder, it is important to remember that memory loss need not be a harbinger of dementia. Therefore, it is recommended that a patient with memory change should be carefully evaluated to rule out treatable causes of the memory loss. It should not be assumed that memory loss is just a part of normal aging.


Hopkins clinicians recommend the Alzheimer's Association web resource known as Carefinder, It outlines how to plan ahead for patients with memory problems, and identifies care options, support services, and guidelines for how to coordinate care for persons with memory disorders. This interactive web-based tool permits you to identify resources that fit your needs.

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