Amnesia is a disease that results in memory loss. This includes the loss of the ability to recall past information and/or retain new information. Amnesia may be organic, that is, due to brain damage, injury or use of drugs; or it may be functional, that is, due to psychological factors such as trauma. 

Amnesia is different from forgetfulness. It refers to large scale memory loss including important details, events and people in your life. If you are suffering from amnesia, you will usually have a sense of self, but forget past experiences and have trouble learning new information.

Amnesia is a rare disease. Below are the main types of amnesia:

  • Anterograde amnesia: This is when information that should be stored into short-term memory disappears. This is usually caused by trauma such as brain damage from a blow to the head. If you are suffering from anterograde amnesia, you will be able to remember data and events which happened before the injury.

  • Retrograde amnesia: This is the opposite of anterograde amnesia. You cannot remember events that occurred before the trauma, but can remember things that happen after it.

  • Transient global amnesia: This is a temporary loss of all memory. This is a very rare form of amnesia. Such patients are usually older and have some sort of vascular disease (that is, related to the blood vessels). 

  • Traumatic amnesia: This is a type of memory loss caused by a hard blow to the head, for instance, people who lose their memory as the result of a car accident. In the majority of cases the amnesia is temporary, depending on how severe the injury is. 

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff's psychosis: This is a type of amnesia caused by extended alcohol abuse. It is a progressive disorder (that is, gets worse over time) accompanied by other neurological problems such as numbness in the toes and fingers. 

  • Hysterical (fugue) amnesia: This is a very rare type of amnesia in which you forget your own identity. It is thought to be triggered by an event that your mind is unable to cope with. It is usually a temporary condition.

  • Childhood amnesia: In this type of amnesia, you are unable to recall events from early childhood, probably because the memory areas of the brain were not fully mature during childhood.

  • Blackout phenomenon: This type of amnesia is caused by heavy drinking. The person cannot remember what he/she did during the drinking binge.

  • Prosopamnesia: In this type of amnesia, you are unable to remember people’s faces. 

Symptoms of amnesia include:

  • Impaired ability to learn new information

  • Impaired ability to recall past information

  • False memories, or memories misplaced in time

  • Disorientation

  • Uncoordinated movements

  • Failure to recognize people and faces

  • Partial loss of memory

  • Total loss of memory​​

If you or a loved one is facing memory loss or other related symptoms, it is recommended that you consult with a doctor immediately. You can obtain additional information and expert medical advice from the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital.
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.​

Before attesting to a diagnosis of amnesia, your doctor will first attempt to rule out other common diseases presenting memory loss as a symptom, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Your doctor will take a complete medical history from you and your family. You will be asked detailed questions about when the problem started, how it progressed, family or personal history of seizures, heart and brain problems, drug and alcohol abuse etc. Your doctor will also conduct physical exams and tests to check your reflexes and balance, cognitive tests to check long and short term memory, as well as thinking and reasoning ability. 

Diagnostic tests can also be used to look for damage and abnormalities in the brain. These will include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan: In this test, a machine uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of your brain. 

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) scan: This is an imaging method that creates a two-dimensional image of the brain using X-ray technology.

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): This is a method that takes an image of your brain while you are performing a task that requires cognitive ability (that is, ability to think).

Blood tests may also be conducted to identify if there are any infections or deficiencies in the body.​

Amnesia is usually temporary and is able to resolve itself without requiring any treatment.  

If treatment is needed, the following options are available:

  • Therapy: Occupational therapy can help you to learn new information to replace the memories that are lost.

  • Technology: The use of smart devices such as smartphones and tablets can help you to manage your daily tasks by setting reminders for important events.  

  • Medication: Currently there is no medication available for treating amnesia, but underlying causes such as nutritional deficiencies and alcohol/drug addictions may be treated.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​​