What conditions can cause memory loss?


Several health-related conditions can cause memory loss. Often, these causes may occur individually or together and usually resolve after treatment.

These includes:

Alzheimer's disease:

Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. A person with the condition may have difficulty remembering important information and completing daily tasks.


Aging can change the structures and chemistry of the brain, affecting a person's ability to learn new information and retrieve previously known information. The symptoms of age-related memory loss are usually mild and temporary.


Certain medications can interfere with the brain's chemistry and lead to short- and long-term memory loss. However, this often resolves with medication changes. Examples of medications that may cause memory loss include psychoactive drugs, antidepressants or anticonvulsants. Older adults are also more likely to develop drug-induced cognitive impairment than young adults. This may be due to drug toxicity from impaired liver and kidney functions.

Head trauma:

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury from sports or accidents can affect the retention of short- and long-term memory.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD): According to a 2022 study, heavy alcohol consumption or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can lead to the loss of brain cells called neurons and cause cognitive decline.

Vitamin B12 deficiency:

People with a vitamin B12 deficiency have a greater likelihood of memory loss and other cognitive issues. This may beTrusted Source due to poor myelination - a condition that damages the myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibers in the brain.

Stress: Research from 2016 suggests that stress affects memory in a time-dependent fashion. Stress can affect the formation of short- and long-term memory, the type of memories a person forms, and the ability to recall vital information.

Depression: According to a 2018 study ,people with one or more symptoms of depression can have memory complaints. Another paper from 2016 notes that some antidepressants can cause memory loss.

Sleep deprivation: People who lack quality sleep can have memory issues, which can directly affect their daytime activities.

Other causes: People with certain conditions, such as COVID-19, herpes, HIV, gum disease, Lyme disease, syphilis, urinary tract infection, and lung infections, may have a higher risk of neurological complications, including memory loss. Other causes may include diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, renal dysfunction, endocrine disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and other neurodegenerative conditions. In many instances, treating the underlying infection can resolve the memory loss.

When to contact a doctor

A person should contact a doctor if they are experiencing any of these symptoms:

getting lost in familiar places

asking the same questions repeatedly

having difficulty following instructions and directions

taking much longer to complete everyday tasks

difficulty remembering names and faces of close friends and family members

mixing up words during conversations

inability to take care of oneself by eating a diet lacking in nutrition, not bathing, and behaving unsafely

In addition, a person should speak with a doctor if they are experiencing any side effects from using a memory loss prescription medication. The doctor can help map out a plan. They can either reduce the dose or switch to a different medication to relieve any worsening symptoms from side effects.