Memory disorders are health issues that affect many people and are most common among the elderly. The two main types of memory disorders are dementia and amnesia. Dementia is a disorder characterized by impaired ability to remember things, think or make a decision. The different types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular, Lewy body, Fronto-temporal, and mixed dementia. On the other hand, amnesia is a health problem where an individual is unable to remember information stored in the memory. The common types are retrograde, anterograde, Transient global, and infantile. Therefore, memory disorders are grouped into two main components; dementia and amnesia.
Overview of Dementia
Dementia is a health complication affecting an increasing number of people worldwide. It is characterized by a decline in cognitive abilities that affect memory, thinking, judgment, learning, and language (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). In addition, dementia affecting the ageing population is not a natural process of ageing and may result in people developing disability cases and high levels of dependency. Many people have dementia, and many cases are reported each year, causing negative effects on patients’ physical, economic, social, and psychological well-being and the well-being of close family members and professional caregivers.
Types of Dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, contributing to most cases. In most patients, the first symptom is progressive difficulty learning and retaining new information (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). As the disease progresses, symptoms of impaired judgment, disorientation, difficulty finding words, and difficulties with spatial relationships develop. In addition, age is the main risk factor because it is prevalent among the elderly (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Therefore, brain imaging and a detailed analysis of cognitive functions through a neuropsychological examination may be required for diagnosis of AD.
Vascular dementia is caused by conditions that block or lower blood flow to different brain areas. It is a disease caused by various situations that impair the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain while also causing damage to the blood vessels in the brain (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Most people with vascular dementia have abnormalities in their brains that can be detected through scans. Although severe strokes increase the risk for dementia, not everyone who has had a stroke will develop the condition in the long run. Therefore, any condition that prevents blood supply to the brain is a causative factor of vascular dementia.
The risk factors for vascular dementia are untreated high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. People usually get checked out by a doctor when they quickly lose a lot of their abilities (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). A neurological exam and modern imaging techniques can quickly tell if someone has had a stroke. However, vulnerable dementia can be more difficult to figure out from a long-term buildup of small strokes in the brain. It depends on which strokes damage blood vessels and what functions are lost depending which blood vessels are damaged (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). The most common symptoms include problems finding information, such as memories, facts, names, and common words that you haven’t thought about in a long time.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia involves the accumulation of clumps of proteins known as Lewy bodies. It is among the most common type of progressive dementia. This condition is characterized by a slow progression of cognitive decline, changes in alertness and focus, frequent visual hallucinations and motor signs (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Usually, Lewy body dementia happens alongside Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. However, there are instances where the disease shows up on its own, with no signs of other relatable conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The intersection between these conditions makes it hard to get an accurate diagnosis.
Fronto-temporal is a type of dementia that results in personality and behavior changes due to part of the brain it impacts. The problem is caused by an accumulation of abnormal proteins in the cognitive area (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). It is a type of progressive dementia in which mental ability deteriorates over time. The symptoms are grouped as progressive behavioral changes and progressive linguistic issues. Behavior changes can include impulsivity, social inappropriateness, extreme listlessness, and disinterest in things (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Linguistic issues are gradual and include naming, reading, and writing difficulties. The disease affects the majority of patients in their old age.
Mixed dementia integrates Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease in the same patient. The abnormal protein accumulation linked with Alzheimer’s disease coexists with blood vessel issues associated with vascular dementia in the most common form of mixed dementia (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Alzheimer’s disease brain changes frequently coexist with Lewy bodies. It is most common in 80 years or older people, but it can occur at any age. However, it is often difficult to diagnose dementia because the symptoms of one type may be more obvious than those of another and because many of the symptoms of each type overlap (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Compared to people with only one type of dementia, people with mixed dementia experience a faster decline.
Dementia is caused by brain damage that affects the brain’s nerve cells, impairing its ability to communicate with its various areas. It can also occur due to a clogged blood supply to the brain, depriving it of vital oxygen and nutrients (Arvanitakis & Bennett, 2019). Brain tissue dies in the absence of oxygen and nutrients. Brain damage manifests itself in various ways, depending on the area of the brain impacted. In addition, there are types of dementia caused by other medical problems that also affect the brain. However, the main cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink and its cells to die (Arvanitakis & Bennett, 2019). As a result, dementia is a condition that is caused by damage to the brain cells.
Signs and Symptoms
There are various cognitive and psychological signs and symptoms that can be used to identify dementia. For example, some cognitive signs include forgetting recent events or information, finding it hard to come up with the right words, changes in mood, behavior and interests, and inability to know the season, year, or month (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). In addition, other signs are difficulty in finding solutions to problems, challenges with coordination and mortar functions, and finding hard to handle complex tasks. On the other hand, psychological signs and symptoms are anxiety, personality changes, inappropriate behavior, hallucinations, agitation, and paranoia. Thus, a healthcare provider can look for these signs during diagnosis.
There are risk factors of dementia that can be changed and those that cannot. The factors that cannot be changed are age, family history, and down syndrome. The risk of getting dementia increases as one age, particularly after 65 years (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). Having a family history of dementia puts an individual at greater risk of developing the condition. In addition, individuals with Down syndrome are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, some factors that can be changed are diet and physical activity, excessive alcohol use, cardiovascular risk factors, depression, smoking, and diabetes. Other factors that can be avoided are medications that adversely affect memory, nutritional deficiencies, and sleep disturbances.
Diagnosis and Test
Diagnosis of dementia can be challenging because most symptoms are common to other illnesses. However, healthcare providers may order laboratory, imaging, and neurocognitive tests (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). The primary goal of laboratory testing is to diagnose other diseases and disorders as possible causes of dementia, such as infectious diseases, poor nutrition, and inflammation. Computed tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used to image the brain (MRI). The sequence of how brain tissues assimilate a type of glucose can also be used to ascertain cognitive function and impairment using the FDG-PET scan (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). In addition, a provider can conduct neurocognitive testing to evaluate mental capabilities.
Treatment and Management
The treatment of dementia involves the use of medication and therapy. Some medications that can improve the symptoms are Cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine, and others. Cholinesterase inhibitors include donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine, which work by increasing the levels of a chemical messenger involved in memory and judgment. Memantine helps control glutamate activity, a chemical messenger that improves brain functions, such as learning and memory (Arvanitakis et al., 2019). On the other hand, therapies can solve some symptoms and behavior challenges. Some interventions that can be applied are occupational therapy, modifying the surroundings, and engaging in simple tasks.
Overview of Amnesia
Amnesia is the loss of memory caused by damage to the brain’s temporal and hippocampal regions. This damage can be caused by physical trauma, infections, depression, or neurological deterioration (Perrotta, 2020). These health issues are likely to be a loss of memory. Some of these memories may be about things and events over the last few minutes, weeks, or even a few years ago. In this case, a person may not be able to memorize things that happened after they had amnesia. In addition, damage to areas of the brain that help us remember things can cause amnesia (Perrotta, 2020). This can take a lot of time, unlike a short-term memory loss called transient global amnesia, which only lasts for a short time.
Table 1: Types of Amnesia
|Types of amnesia||Description|
| ||Retrograde amnesia||This is where an individual is unable to remember memories established prior to the event that led to amnesia (Perrotta, 2020).|
| ||Anterograde amnesia||This is a type of amnesia where an individual is unable to form new memories after the event leading to amnesia. It is among the most common form of memory loss.|
| ||Transient global amnesia||This is a brief form of amnesia that can recover within a day. It is more common in middle-aged and elderly people (Perrotta, 2020).|
| ||Infantile amnesia||People who have childhood amnesia are unable to remember things from their early years. This could be because young children’s brains are still growing, and they cannot remember everything at once.|
| ||Dissociative amnesia||Dissociative amnesia is a condition caused by stress or trauma that manifests as the inability to recall particular incidents (Perrotta, 2020).|
The primary features of amnesia are the challenge of learning new information after the onset of amnesia and the inability to remember past events. Most people who suffer from amnesia have difficulties with short-term memory, where they cannot retain new information (Langer, 2019). Recent memories are most likely to be lost, while more distant or deeply embedded memories are more inclined to be preserved. In addition, an individual with amnesia may find it hard to remember previous events. Other symptoms include false memories when information is replaced gradually and confusion. Therefore, these symptoms are crucial to healthcare providers during diagnosis.
There are several factors that can lead to amnesia disorder. Firstly, amnesia can happen if damage to the brain anatomy makes up the limbic system, which is in charge of emotions and memory control (Perrotta, 2020). One is the thalamus, which is in the brain’s center, and the other is the hippocampal formations, which are in the brain’s temporal lobes and help us remember things. Secondly, neurological amnesia is caused by stroke, brain inflammation, inadequate supply of oxygen in the brain, seizures, long-term alcohol consumption leading to thiamine deficiency and medication such as benzodiazepines (Tramoni-Negre et al., 2017). Thirdly, amnesia can result from head injuries that cause a concussion.
Diagnosis and Testing
A healthcare provider can use several techniques to diagnose amnesia. The first intervention is a diagnostic interview, where providers ask a patient-specific question to collect data (Naldi et al., 2017). An individual can be asked general questions about the past and personal information. Apart from a cognitive test, a provider can use Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan to determine any damage to the brain. Electroencephalogram (EEG) can check for seizures and a spinal tap to identify brain infections (Naldi et al., 2017). In addition, blood tests can be conducted to determine any nutritional deficiency that may contribute to memory loss. As a result, diagnostic techniques play an integral role in determining amnesia.
Treatment and Management
Despite having no specific treatment for amnesia, it improves as the brain heals. The treatment involves acquiring skills to solve memory issues. Occupational therapy can assist an individual in acquiring new information or in developing strategies for the effective recovery of information (Naldi et al., 2017). This technique is integral because it assists one in recalling past or future events. A healthcare provider can advise a patient to use smartphones to help with the situation. For example, the devices can remind individuals about events and other things they may need to remember. For medication there is currently no medicine approved to help alleviate amnesia.
Prevention is key to protecting an individual from brain trauma and other risk factors that may lead to amnesia. Firstly, it is integral for an individual to wear protective headgear when playing some games and riding on a motorbike to avoid the possibility of concussion (Langer, 2019). Secondly, one should get help when they suspect they have signs of stress and anxiety. Depression is among the risk factors for amnesia. Thirdly, avoid smoking because it increases the risk of cognitive decline and engages in regular physical activity to lower the possibility of having high blood pressure (Langer, 2019). Fourthly, eating a healthy diet is crucial to increasing the brain’s functionality.
Memory disorders are widespread health problems that disproportionately affect the elderly. Dementia and amnesia are the two primary types of memory disorders. Dementia is a brain disorder that impairs one’s ability to remember, think, and make decisions. Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Fronto-temporal dementia, and mixed dementia are the various types of dementia. On the other hand, amnesia is a medical condition in which an individual cannot recall previously stored information. The most prevalent types are retrograde, anterograde, transient global, and infantile.
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Langer, K. G. (2019). Early history of amnesia. A History of Neuropsychology, 44, 64-74. Web.
Naldi, F., Baiardi, S., Guarino, M., Spinardi, L., Cirignotta, F., & Stracciari, A. (2017). Posterior hippocampal stroke presenting with transient global amnesia. Neurocase, 23(1), 22-25. Web.
Perrotta, G. (2020). Amnesia: definition, main models, classifications, neurobiological profiles and clinical treatments. Arch Depress Anxiety, 6(1), 037-044. Web.
Tramoni-Negre, E., Lambert, I., Bartolomei, F., & Felician, O. (2017). Long-term memory deficits in temporal lobe epilepsy. Revue Neurologique, 173(7-8), 490-497. Web.