What is Organic Amnesia?
Amnesia refers to memory loss i.e. forgetting facts, information, etc. Organic amnesia refers to memory loss due to lesions or diseases of the brain. It is hence a neurological disorder characterized by loss of memory which can be of different patterns depending upon the cause and site of lesion in the brain.
Understanding the ailment:
Memory loss can occur due to various causes like senility, psychological causes like emotional trauma, etc. Organic amnesia refers to memory loss caused due to pathological causes related to the brain. These causes are non-psychological. The patient experiences impairment of memory with or without a decrease in other mental functions. Amnesia is not the same as dementia. Dementia involves decreased functions of the brain in all areas and memory is just a part of it.
What are the Causes of Organic Amnesia?
- Decreased blood supply to the brain (hypotension, syncope, etc)
- Infections of the brain like meningitis, encephalitis, etc.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (Thiamine deficiency in alcoholics)
- Brain tumors
- After Electroconvulsive therapy
- Post-operative complications following brain surgery
What are the Risk Factors for Organic Amnesia?
- Chronic alcohol intake
- Substance abuse
- Head injury
- History of seizures
What are the Symptoms of Organic Amnesia?
The type and pattern of memory loss will depend on the cause of amnesia. It can present as:
- Inability or difficulty in retaining new information. This can be a part of having short term memory or of anterograde amnesia (memory loss of events after the onset of disease)
- Inability or difficulty remembering past events and experiences – Retrograde amnesia
- Patient’s intelligence, mental awareness, judgment, and reasoning might or might not be affected
- Most patients understand they have a memory disorder
- Sometimes, the patient may have false memories, confusion, etc.
What investigations help in diagnosing Organic Amnesia?
- Imaging of brain by CT, MRI, etc.
- Blood profile
- Cognitive tests to check mental status
- History of medications and drugs taken
- EEG (Electroencephalogram)
- CSF examination to look for infections
- Certain tasks and tests might be performed to check the type and severity of memory loss
What is the treatment for Organic Amnesia?
There are no medications available to cure amnesia. However, medications can be used to treat any underlying disease or condition. For example, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome has a thiamine deficiency, so vitamin supplementation may prevent further memory loss.
Memory Clinics – Certain therapies like occupational therapy in which memory training is given, strategies to learn new information based on previous information are used and other interactive sessions are carried out to help the patient improve their memory.
Assistance in the form of reminders of doing tasks that are important by providing devices like smartphones can help the patients.
Support and patience of the family are crucial. Certain associations and organizations are available for such patients to cope up with the disease better.
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