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Memory disorders are disorders of cognition, the ability to reason, remember, make decisions and communicate. and are the result of damage to neuroanatomical structures that hinders the storage, retention and recollection of memories. Memory disorders can be progressive, including Alzheimer's disease, or they can be immediate including disorders resulting from head injury.

Many conditions and diseases result in or cause memory loss. However, not all are the primary cause of death, but may contribute to the death or it's primary cause.

Memory disorders can be caused by one or more factors, including:

  • aging
  • trauma
  • substance abuse
  • heredity (inheriting genes associated with Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease)
  • narrowing of the arteries that provide blood flow to the brain
  • cardiovascular disease
  • untreated infectious or metabolic disease
  • brain tumors
  • vitamin deficiencies.

Conditions: (Not all of these will be the primary cause of death)

  • Agnosia
    • Agnosia is the inability to recognize certain objects, persons or sounds. Agnosia is typically caused by damage to the brain (most commonly in the occipital or parietal lobes) or from a neurological disorder. Treatments vary depending on the location and cause of the damage. Recovery is possible depending on the severity of the disorder and the severity of the damage to the brain.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive, degenerative and fatal brain disease, in which cell to cell connections in the brain are lost. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Globally approximately 1–5% of the population is affected by Alzheimer's disease. Women are disproportionately the victims of Alzheimer's disease, with evidence suggesting that women with AD display more severe cognitive impairment relative to age-matched males with AD, as well as a more rapid rate of cognitive decline.
  • Autoimmune Encephalopathy
    • Encephalitis is inflammation and swelling of the brain. This leads to changes in neurological function, resulting in mental confusion and seizures. Viruses are the leading cause of encephalitis. Vaccines for many viruses, including measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox have greatly lowered the rate of encephalitis from these diseases. But, other viruses can also cause encephalitis. These include herpes simplex virus and rabies. Encephalitis can also occur after an infection caused by disease-carrying agents including ticks (Lyme disease), mosquitoes (West Nile virus), and cats (toxoplasmosis). Encephalitis can also be caused by bacteria.
  • Brain injury
    • Traumatic brain injury often occurs from damage to the brain caused by an outside force, and may lead to cases of amnesia depending on the severity of the injury. Head injury can give rise to either transient or persisting amnesia.
  • Dementias
    • Dementia refers to a large class of disorders characterized by the progressive deterioration of thinking ability and memory as the brain becomes damaged. Dementia can be categorized as reversible (e.g. thyroid disease) or irreversible (e.g. Alzheimer's disease). Currently, there are more than 35 million people with dementia worldwide. In the United States alone the number of people affected by dementia is striking at 3.8 million.
    • Dementia is most often thought of as a memory disorder, an illness of the aging mind. In its initial stages, that's true — memory loss is an early hallmark of dementia. But experts in the field say dementia is more accurately defined as fatal brain failure: a terminal disease, like cancer, that physically kills patients, not simply a mental ailment that accompanies older age.
    • Dementia is not a single illness but a collection or consequence of many, including Parkinson's disease, vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease (which accounts for some 70% of all dementia cases). In the advanced stages of dementia, it is often impossible to tell which disease the patient had at the outset, as the end result is the same, according to Mitchell's study: a syndrome of symptoms and complications — eating problems (86%), pneumonia (41%), difficulty breathing (46%), pain (39%) and fever (53%) — caused by brain failure. "Dementia ends up involving much more than just the brain," says Dr. Claudia Kawas, professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine. "We forget the brain does everything for us — controls the heart, the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the metabolism."'
  • Hyperthymestic syndrome
    • Hyperthymestic syndrome causes an individual to have an extremely detailed autobiographical memory. Patients with this condition are able to recall events from every day of their lives (with the exception of memories before age five and days that were uneventful). This condition is very rare with only a few confirmed cases.
  • Huntington’s disease
    • Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited progressive disorder of the brain that leads to uncontrolled movements, emotional instability, and loss of intellectual faculties. Because of the inheritability of Huntington's each child born to a parent with Huntington's has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease, leading to a prevalence of almost 1 in 10,000 Canadians (0.01%).[
  • Parkinson’s disease
    • Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease. PD and aging share a lot of the same neuropathologic and behavioral features. Movement is normally controlled by dopamine; a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain. When cells that normally produce dopamine die off, the symptoms of Parkinson's appear. This degeneration also occurs in normal aging but is a much slower process. The most common symptoms include: tremors, slowness, stiffness, impaired balance, rigidity of the muscles, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, non-motor symptoms may also appear, such as depression, difficulty swallowing, sexual problems or cognitive changes.
  • Pick’s Disease (Frontotemporal Dementia)
    • Pick’s disease, a form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), is a rare neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive shrinking of the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain.
    • Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, difficulty with language, significant changes in personal and social behavior, impulsivity, poor judgment, excessive eating or drinking, a decline in personal hygiene, extreme restlessness, and obsessive and/or repetitive behavior. Unlike Alzheimer’s, people with Pick’s disease exhibit visible changes in personality prior to any form of memory loss.
  • Vascular Cognitive Impairment
    • Vascular cognitive impairment is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer disease. It’s caused when decreased blood flow damages brain tissue. Blood flow to brain tissue may be reduced by a partial blockage or completely blocked by a blood clot.
    • Symptoms of vascular dementia may develop gradually, or may become apparent after a stroke or major surgery, such as heart bypass surgery or abdominal surgery.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome
    • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a severe neurological disorder caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, and is usually associated with chronic excessive alcohol consumption. It is characterized clinically by oculomotor abnormalities, cerebellar dysfunction and an altered mental state. Korsakoff's syndrome is also characterized by profound amnesia, disorientation and frequent confabulation (making up or inventing information to compensate for poor memory). A survey published in 1995 indicated that there was no connection to the national average amount of alcohol ingested by a country in correlation to a range of prevalence within 0 and 2.5%.

References & Additional Reading:

Jump to Cause of death portal This umbrella project is found after the Maternal death project.