Memory loss is one of the most common reasons older people or their families seek medical attention.
To be sure, a certain amount of memory loss is normal with aging, in the same way we all experience changes in reflexes, strength, vision, and other areas as we get older. Geriatricians sometimes call this “physiologic” memory loss or “normal for age”.
However, a variety of diseases or conditions can cause memory loss in older people that is not normal. Especially concerning is memory loss that begins to interfere with daily functioning, such as missing doctors appointments, getting lost, or difficulty taking medications on schedule.
It’s critical that memory loss be treated like any other medical symptom; namely that it receive an appropriate medical evaluation as to cause. While all patients and families fear diseases like Alzheimer’s as the basis for memory loss, that is not always the case. A variety of medical conditions ranging from thyroid abnormalities to medication side effects -can cause memory loss. More compellingly, some of those causes are reversible when the underlying problem is addressed.
When memory loss winds up being from a less reversible cause (like certain dementia), there are still a variety of lifestyle interventions and medications might can slow the progression; another reason to get memory loss properly evaluated.