Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer’s Disease?

(NIA) Many people worry about becoming forgetful. They think forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease. But not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer’s.

Other causes for memory problems can include aging, medical conditions, emotional problems, mild cognitive impairment, or another type of dementia.

Age-Related Changes in Memory

Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don’t remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems, like Alzheimer’s disease.

Share this infographic and help spread the word about what memory problems are normal and not. 

 

Mary’s Story

Mary couldn’t find her car keys. She looked on the hook just inside the front door. They weren’t there. She searched in her purse. No luck. Finally, she found them on her desk. Yesterday, she forgot her neighbor’s name. Her memory was playing tricks on her. She was starting to worry about it.

She decided to see her doctor. After a complete check-up, her doctor said that Mary was fine. Her forgetfulness was just a normal part of getting older. The doctor suggested that Mary take a class, play cards with friends, or help out at the local school to sharpen her memory.

Differences Between Normal Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease
Normal Aging Alzheimer’s Disease
Making a bad decision once in a while Making poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time
Missing a monthly payment Problems taking care of monthly bills
Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later Losing track of the date or time of year
Sometimes forgetting which word to use Trouble having a conversation
Losing things from time to time Misplacing things often and being unable to find them

 

Memory Loss Related to Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems. These problems should go away once a person gets treatment. Medical conditions that may cause memory problems include:

  • Tumors, blood clots, or infections in the brain
  • Some thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Head injury, such as a concussion from a fall or accident
  • Medication side effects
  • Not eating enough healthy foods, or too few vitamins and minerals in a person’s body (like vitamin B12)

A doctor should treat serious medical conditions like these as soon as possible.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information About Memory Loss

Alzheimer’s Association
1-800-272-3900 (toll-free, 24/7)
1-866-403-3073 (TTY/toll-free)
info@alz.org
www.alz.org

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
1-866-232-8484 (toll-free)
info@alzfdn.org
www.alzfdn.org

National Institute of Mental Health
1-866-615-6464 (toll-free)
1-866-415-8051 (TTY/toll-free)
nimhinfo@nih.gov
www.nimh.nih.gov

Eldercare Locator
1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
www.eldercare.gov

Citation

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/do-memory-problems-always-mean-alzheimers-disease

National Institute on Aging