Can memory loss be treated?

Memory loss can be worrying but there are lots of reasons for it, and many of them are treatable – some can even be reversed. Find out the essential facts about treatments for memory issues

If you’ve been affected by memory loss recently don't panic. Your first step is to try to identify what may be causing it. Not all cases of memory loss are caused by dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia, so don’t jump to conclusions yet!

If your memory loss is caused by…

Dementia

Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies can all cause memory loss. There are some drugs which can help to slow the progression of dementia (such as Donepezil, Rivastigimine or Galantamine), but they don’t work for everyone and it’s usually advised that you use them in conjunction with other treatments.

Click here for more information on drug treatments for dementia.

Nutritional deficiencies

You may be experiencing memory loss because of a deficiency in a particular vitamin or mineral. Once this is identified, the deficiency can usually be treated with a nutritional supplement.

For example, memory loss can sometimes be caused by a lack of vitamin B, which is easily treated with a supplement as advised by your doctor.

Depression or anxiety

If you’re depressed, anxious or very stressed, it can affect your memory. Luckily, there are numerous types of treatment and medication to help with these issues. You might find that once you start using them, your memory problems could lessen significantly and even disappear.

It's important to get the right diagnosis from your doctor and then set up a good treatment plan together, which might involve drugs, talking therapies, or a combination of both.

Alcohol and drug misuse

Drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs regularly can damage your memory, not only because they affect chemical messages in the brain, but because they’re often linked with nutritional deficiencies as well, which also cause memory loss (see above).

Treatments for alcohol and drug disorders are usually delivered through 12-step rehabilitation programmes, counselling, and sometimes the use of medication to help reduce addictive cravings. They can be very successful but first you need to admit you have a problem. Confide in a friend, or see your GP and get the wheels of change set in motion.

Thyroid problems

The thyroid is a gland in your neck that makes hormones to regulate growth and development. But if it's not working well, problems with the thyroid can lead to extreme tiredness, weight loss or gain, rapid heartbeat, and hair loss. In cases such as this, the thyroid is usually overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism), but both can also cause memory loss problems.

Thyroid problems can be discovered via a simple blood test to reveal levels of thyroid hormones in your blood. Treatment then involves either reducing or suppressing the amount of thyroid hormones in your body, or replacing and boosting the amount of thyroid hormones. This can be done through medication or surgery, and will depend on your age, general health and medical history.