Memory Problems Signs and Symptoms

Memory problems can vary in severity and cause different types of signs and symptoms. Common symptoms associated with memory loss include the following:

  • Confabulation (i.e., invented memories or real memories recalled out of sequence)
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Difficulty handling day-to-day affairs, such as balancing a checkbook, keeping appointments, or preparing meals
  • Forgetting people, facts, and events that were previously known well
  • Getting lost and misplacing items
  • Increased difficulty in following directions or taking a step-by-step approach to a familiar task
  • Irritability
  • Language difficulties, such as mixing up words or trouble remembering a word
  • Neurological disorders (e.g., tremors, uncoordinated movements)
  • Poor performance on memory tests
  • Repeating the same stories and/or questions

Complications of Memory Problems

Depression and anxiety are common in people who have memory problems, as are difficulties with language, social situations, education, and employment. Some people with amnesia are never able to recover lost memories.

Patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are more likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and vascular (blood vessel) problems in the brain (called vascular dementia). The drug galantamine (Razadyne), which is used to treat Alzheimer's disease and dementia, has been associated with increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), heart attack, and stroke in patients with MCI.

Many patients with memory problems need assistance from friends, family members, or home health aides. Caregivers and patients often require emotional, physical, and financial support. Eventually, some patients with severe memory problems must move to assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Dec 2008

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015