Understanding Memory: Memory Loss vs Dementia

Memory Loss

Memory is one of the most important parts of the human experience. Our memories serve as learning opportunities, shaping the way we behave, communicate, navigate and socially interact. This is why memory loss-related diseases have such a profoundly damaging effect on us. Losing our ability to remember, halts our progress and prevents growth. That being said, there is a significant difference between simply being forgetful and the onset of serious cognitive disorders like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, occurring in as many as 80% of cases.

Dr. Salman Saeed and the team of specialists at the West TN Neurology clinic are memory experts, trained to accurately diagnose dementia and its associated conditions. Our team understands the complex nature of dementia and can help you determine if you are experiencing mild cognitive impairment or more serious, progressive disorders.

How Memories Are Formed and Lost?

Every time we perform an action or are exposed to visual, audible, or physical stimuli, our brain does its best to record the information as best it can. It does this by creating connections between neurons, called synapses. Your brain can form billions upon billions of connections, each recalling unique memories.  As you are repeatedly exposed to the same scenario, like walking to work, or swinging a golf club, those neural pathways are strengthened and more become more resistant.

With how infinitely complex this system of wiring and pathways is, you are bound to misremember things, occasionally forget, or only remember parts of an event. As your body ages and neurological activity slows, these connections can become compromised or weaken, and you will experience temporary bouts of memory loss.

When Should I See A Doctor?

  • You find yourself asking the same questions, over and over (‘have you seen…’)
  • Getting lost in normally familiar places
  • Difficulty following recipes or directions
  • Frequently being confused – dates, times, locations, people
  • Forgetting to bathe and eat routinely

Typical Memory Loss Compared to Alzheimer’s Disease

When people think of dementia or Alzheimer’s, the majority of people would rightfully associate them with memory disorders. This can make it challenging to differentiate between early warning signs and typical forgetfulness. 

Age-related memory loss will not adversely affect your quality of life, instead, it will only cause minor inconveniences here and there, like lost keys or running late for appointments. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a step beyond age-related memory loss, involving mild disorientation and difficulty speaking, but still does not adversely affect your daily life.

Alzheimer’s and dementia affect your ability to be independent, forgetting things like family members’ names, entire conversations, or being unaware of what day or year it is. We have included a side-by-side comparison for example:

                              Normal aging                                       

   Alzheimer’s disease

Occasionally make a bad decision 

Frequently making poor judgments and decisions

       Forgetting to make one payment     

             Unable to remember to pay monthly bills. 
                Mistaking the day of the week                  Losing track of the date, time, or even year
                Forgetting a word or phrase                                  Forgetting having had a conversation
                Losing things from time to time                    Misplacing many things and are unable to locate them.    

Dementia and Aging

Dementia is not a normal part of aging and only a fraction of the population will develop it. Dementia negatively affects cognitive functioning, thinking ability, recollection, learning, and reasoning. Memory loss is a common symptom, although it is not the only sign of dementia. People with dementia may also have problems with:

  • Language skills 
  • Visual perception
  • Attention difficulty
  • Personality change

How is Alzheimer’s treated?

Dr. Saeed creates a customized treatment plan for every man and woman in his care. Treating Alzheimer’s is easier and more effective when your family is involved in your care plan and can provide the support and assistance needed.

Medications might play a role in your care. Drugs like memantine and donepezil can help with memory loss. Medications come with a risk of side effects and drug interactions, however, which is why it’s so important to discuss all of your medications and supplements with Dr. Saeed early in your treatment process.

Behavior-modifying treatments can also help manage Alzheimer’s. This is an area where loved ones can really make a difference. Creating a calm, soothing, non-confrontational living environment can go a long way toward reducing the anxiety that many Alzheimer’s patients experience. Enhancing sleep is another important area of focus.

Memory Loss Therapy in Bartlett, TN

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of memory loss or dementia, it is always best to get an expert diagnosis. As with many conditions, early intervention provides the best possible outcomes. Schedule an appointment online to meet with Dr. Saeed for a thorough diagnostic exam.

Written by West TN Neurology Clinic PLLC