Ingrid Muller is a chemist. Medical journalist. She was editor-in-chief of NetDoktor for twelve years.de. Since March 2014, she has worked as a freelance journalist and author for Focus Gesundheit, the health portal ellviva, and other publications.de, the publishing house living crossmedia and the health channel of rtv.
Forgetfulness is not uncommon: It is easy to forget the name of an acquaintance or the milk while shopping. Single lapses of memory are not yet a sign of disease. Even in old age, forgetfulness does not necessarily indicate dementia. There may be other reasons if memory contents are not retrievable. More about the causes of forgetfulness and what you can do against memory lapses, read here.
Does forgetfulness equal dementia? No, a certain amount of forgetfulness is normal. Only a noticeable and continuous decline in memory performance can be a warning signal for a serious memory disorder such as dementia. How much forgetfulness is normal? There is no generally valid guideline here. People who forget things from time to time usually have nothing to worry about. If memory lapses accumulate and/or other symptoms occur (misplacement of things, loss of orientation, etc.), then the patient is at risk for dementia.), but you should go to the doctor. Causes of forgetfulness: u. a. Stress, exhaustion, certain medications, alcohol abuse, dementia (such as Alzheimer's), meningitis, epilepsy, sleep apnea, kidney or liver failure, heart failure, thyroid disease, anemia, mental disorders
Forgetfulness – what to do? For existing forgetfulness and for prevention, memory training, stimulating hobbies, healthy eating, regular exercise and relaxation are recommended. This is what the doctor does for forgetfulness: Conduct tests to determine the exact cause, then initiate appropriate therapy (e.g.B. with medication).
How much forgetfulness is normal?
Many people immediately associate forgetfulness with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or in general "dementia. But this is wrong – not everyone who is forgetful is also demented or otherwise ill. Every person forgets from. To something – young as well as older. This is not a weakness, but a necessary mechanism of the brain, to protect themselves from stimulus overload. A certain "laziness" is therefore normal, as long as it is kept in moderation and does not increase.
It is also normal, more forgetful in old age to be or. not being able to remember some things (exactly) anymore. Over the years, the processes by which the brain stores and retrieves memory information slow down. The cells then transfer information more slowly, the ability to remember decreases. This means that even in older people, forgetfulness does not necessarily indicate dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease). For example, a lack of fluids is often the cause of forgetfulness, especially in seniors. Also with stress and exhaustion the memory can let one down already times.
However, such memory lapses or even confusion should not become noticeably more frequent. If this does happen, it may indicate a reduced memory capacity that goes beyond the "harmless" memory loss Forgetfulness goes beyond. Possible reasons are lack of blood circulation in the brain due to "calcified" blood vessels arteries, depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse – or even dementia.
At what point is forgetfulness pathological?
It is difficult to say when forgetfulness goes beyond the normal level. Some people think they are forgetful if they have forgotten their EC card pin. Others do not worry even if they misplace something every other day. "Normal" is therefore difficult to define exactly.
In principle, however, it can be said that changes in memory performance that last longer than six months and are also noticeable to third parties can Warning signals that should be clarified by a doctor. Such changes can be, for example
– They frequently forget appointments, names, passwords, etc. They often lose their ability to say everyday words. terms no longer. – You have the occasional feeling of not knowing your way around in familiar places. – You often misplace things (keys, glasses, slippers, remote control, etc.).). – You find it difficult(er) to perform actions that you are actually used to, such as ironing or changing a light bulb.
The alarm bells should ring in the following cases, because they are sign of an advanced memory disorder can be:
– repeated asking of the same question, although the person has already received the answer (several times). – Repeated telling of the same story within a short period of time (e.g.B. Problems with everyday activities. Movement patterns (z. B. Lack of concentration. Forgetfulness can have many causes. The most important are:
Dementia is an umbrella term for various diseases in which mental capacity and thinking ability are all impaired. Affected people have difficulties in mentally absorbing and reproducing new information. The ability to orientate, to speak and to calculate is also impaired. Finally, the whole personality changes.
Important forms or causes of dementia:
Alzheimer's diseaseThe most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. The brain cells of those affected gradually perish – it is not known exactly why. One thing is certain: There is a lack of acetylcholine (a nerve messenger) in the brains of those affected. In addition, protein deposits form in the brain, which could be responsible for cell death. Vascular dementiaVascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. It is based on circulatory disturbances in the brain. Small strokes are responsible for it. Memory may be preserved much longer in vascular dementia than in Alzheimer's disease – thus forgetfulness occurs later in the course of the disease. Lewy body dementia: In Lewy body dementia, protein deposits form in the brain – as in Alzheimer's disease. Therefore both forms of dementia show similar symptoms. Typical of Lewy body dementia, however, are visual hallucinations and severe fluctuations in mental performance and alertness during the course of the day. Frontotemporal dementia: In people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the main changes are in personality and interpersonal behavior – those affected behave in a conspicuous and antisocial manner. Your memory, on the other hand, remains intact for a long time. In FTD, nerve cells die mainly in the forehead-. temporal lobe of the brain. Creutzfeldt-Jacob diseaseCreutzfeldt-Jacob disease manifests itself as rapidly progressive dementia – with disturbances of attention, retentiveness, concentration and memory. Motor disorders (such as muscle twitching) are then added to the dementia. The cause is the deposition of atypical protein fragments (prions) in the brain. St. Vitus' danceThis is the old name for the hereditary nervous disease Huntington's disease. Affected people also develop progressive dementia – in addition to other symptoms. Parkinson's diseaseAbout one third of all people with Parkinson's disease (shaking palsy) also develop dementia later in the course of the disease. Doctors refer to this as Parkinson's dementia. HIV/AIDSIn advanced HIV disease, the brain can also be affected. It results in a so-called HIV encephalopathy, which is accompanied by dementia symptoms (HIV dementia or AIDS dementia).
Forgetfulness can also be related to other diseases. Examples are:
Meningitis (meningitis): Here forgetfulness, lack of concentration, confusion and drowsiness up to coma (rare) can occur. Bacteria or viruses are the most common causes of CFS. Brain inflammation (encephalitis): People with meningitis sometimes also suffer from encephalitis. Symptoms include impaired consciousness, forgetfulness or confusion. Sleep apnea: People with sleep apnea experience repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The night's rest is considerably impaired. Common consequences are fatigue, forgetfulness and lack of concentration during the day. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): Also called chronic fatigue syndrome. Typical of the disease is severe mental (and physical) exhaustion with poor concentration, forgetfulness or irritability. Thyroid diseaseBoth hyperthyroidism (hypertyhreosis) and hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism) can be associated with forgetfulness, disorientation and memory problems. Acute kidney failure: It can be manifested by memory problems, poor concentration and forgetfulness, among other symptoms. The same is true for chronic renal failure (chronic renal insufficiency). Liver failureLiver insufficiency (for example, as a result of liver cirrhosis or hepatitis) can damage the brain. Symptoms are forgetfulness, lack of concentration and even unconsciousness (hepatic coma). severe heart failureMany patients with severe heart failure suffer from forgetfulness, memory difficulties and thinking problems. pronounced anemiaAnemia, mainly due to iron deficiency (iron deficiency anemia), can limit mental performance. Forgetfulness and memory problems are some of the possible signs. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia can also cause forgetfulness, poor concentration and fatigue. Epilepsy: Not only the typical seizures, but also poor concentration, forgetfulness and perceptual difficulties can occur in connection with epilepsy. Brain trauma: Traumatic brain injuries can damage nerve cells, so as a result, mental performance may be impaired.
Depression can also affect memory: it can lead to loss of mental capacity, forgetfulness, lack of concentration and memory problems, among other things.
Anxiety disorders can also affect the brain and trigger forgetfulness – possibly also due to certain medications taken for the pathological anxiety.
Other causes of forgetfulness
There are other factors that can have a negative impact on memory. Some of them are:
– Alcohol abuse – Cancer therapies, especially chemotherapy (sog. "chemobrain") – various medications (z. B. Fluid-. Lack of food (v. a. in older people)
Forgetfulness: What you can do yourself?
You can prevent forgetfulness by maintaining as healthy a lifestyle as possible. These include:
– Eat a balanced diet. – Make sure you get regular exercise. Do not drink too much. Not drinking alcohol too often. Better yet, refrain from them altogether! – Provide regular relaxation, especially if you are stressed or suffer from sleep disorders. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson are helpful. – Exercise your brain regularly. Find hobbies that challenge you mentally (z.B. reading, playing a musical instrument or chess). – Meet friends! Social contact with other people also seems to be good for the brain.
A person has about 100 billion nerve cells, only a small fraction of which they use. But if you don't exercise your gray matter regularly, you risk it atrophying and losing its ability to perform. Forgetfulness or poor concentration can be the consequences. With age, the number of nerve cells decreases anyway without any action on your part!
Memory training has not been proven to protect against dementia, but your gray matter is still happy to be challenged. With a little training, you can quickly and effectively increase your memory capacity – memory for numbers, terms, people or pictures can be improved in this way.
Even people who already suffer from dementia can benefit from brain jogging. However, normal forms of memory training are less suitable for dementia patients. This is because dementia deprives those affected of the opportunity to remember things, to build up and improve their memory. Here, it is more helpful for patients to activate their memories, which are stored in long-term memory. Important: The exercises must be fun for the person affected. give you a sense of achievement! These do not primarily help against forgetfulness, but they strengthen self-esteem, which can suffer from forgetfulness!
Forgetfulness: what does the doctor?
If you suspect that your forgetfulness could be due to a serious memory disorder, various examinations and tests can provide clarity. If the suspicion is confirmed, the doctor will suggest a suitable treatment for you.
First, the doctor will discuss information about your Medical history obtain information (anamnesis). Possible questions include:
– How often does your memory fail you? – Since when does the forgetfulness exist? – Do you have the impression that your forgetfulness is increasing?? – Are you unable to remember things that were not a problem for you in the past?? – If you can no longer carry out familiar work processes correctly? – Take any medications? If so, which ones?
If the doctor suspects that you may be developing dementia, neuropsychological dementia tests may be helpful. In these tests, the doctor observes, among other things, how concentrated you are in performing certain tasks and whether you suffer from a lack of concentration.
The clock test is particularly well known: Here the doctor puts a sheet of paper with an empty circle on it in front of you. You are then to draw the numbers of a clock in this circle, as well as the hour and minute hands to indicate a specific time of day. People with dementia often do not manage to do this.
Routinely, a physical examination carried out, including blood prere measurement. To learn more about the condition and performance of the nervous system, the doctor will, among other things, perform Muscle and pupil reflexes test (as part of a neurological examination). Further examinations depend in part on what the doctor suspects is the cause behind the symptoms.
Particularly helpful can beImaging examinations If a shrinkage of the brain can be detected by computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), this indicates dementia as the cause of the forgetfulness. If liver disease or kidney failure is suspected, the doctor will, among other things, do an abdominal ultrasound.
A measurement of heart currents (ECG) provides information about heart rhythm and heart rate. This is important, for example, if cardiac insufficiency is suspected. A Measuring brain waves (EEG) allows assessment of brain activity.
Helpful can also be a Examination of the nerve fluid (cerebrospinal fluid diagnostics). For this purpose, the physician takes a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal canal using a thin hollow needle (lumbar puncture).
If Parkinson's disease is suspected, in addition to the above-mentioned procedures, the physician performs a L-dopa test and a special form of computed tomography – Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) – through.
The sleep apnea syndrome can be diagnosed with the help of sleep medical examinations diagnose in a sleep laboratory.
Blood tests are informative, for example, in cases of suspected liver failure, kidney failure, thyroid disease, anemia, and alcohol and drug abuse. If the doctor suspects kidney failure, a urine test can also provide clarification. A Laparoscopy (laparoscopy) helps clarify suspected liver disease.
In the case of psychological disorders (depression, anxiety disorders) as the cause of forgetfulness come psychological tests for application.
The treatment of memory disorders depends on the cause.
Although dementia cannot be cured, it can be managed well with Medication to be treated, which slow down the progression. These include, for example, the so-called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Other substances may improve the brain performance of dementia patients. For example, there is evidence that a certain extract from ginkgo leaves (EGb 761) has a positive effect on the cognition of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's dementia or vascular dementia and non-psychotic behavioral symptoms.