BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – You open your refrigerator and suddenly forget what you’re looking for. 

This is a minor annoyance most of us have faced at least once or twice. We brush off the forgetfulness and, chalk it up to a lack of sleep before moving on with our day.

But when situations like this happen often and are accompanied by other seeming lapses in memory -such as frequently forgetting the names of acquaintances or struggling to find the correct words for everyday objects- this can make a person wonder if they’re suffering from a health condition that’s affecting their memory. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, forgetting a word or name here or there is common. Physicians say this is especially likely to occur as one grows older, and it’s no cause for alarm.  

They add that as we age, we may even find ourselves needing to make lists more often so we can keep track of the things we need to do. Doctors reassure us that this is also normal. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, memory loss that disrupts one’s life is something to address with a physician. 

For example, a couple from Baton Rouge described the severe symptoms of memory loss that began to affect one of their family members to the point of impacting her ability to function on a daily basis. 

The husband explained that his elderly mother began experiencing episodes of extreme disorientation, during which she was unable to figure out where she was.

He told BRProud,  “One time we brought her to our house… and she went outside and stood on the corner trying to figure out which way to go.”

His wife added that her mother-in-law also became increasingly confused about the state of her finances, and believed she owned property that had been sold long ago. 

She said, “It (the symptoms of memory loss) went into full bloom when she said that she owned property, a house that she’d rented on South 10th Street, and said she had money in the bank and thought we were taking it out.” 

Eventually, a physician diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimers is commonly defined as a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.

It occurs when brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die, eventually destroying memory and other important mental functions.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services links the following symptoms with the illness:

-Memory loss 

-Poor judgment leading to bad decisions

-Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative

-Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks

-Repeating questions

-Trouble handling money and paying bills

-Wandering and getting lost

-Losing things or misplacing them in odd places

-Mood and personality changes

-Increased anxiety and/or aggression

But not every case of significant memory loss is linked to Alzheimer’s or dementia. The following six issues often cause short-term memory loss:

  • MEDICATIONS – Some medications, such as benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants, or a combination of medications can cause forgetfulness or confusion.

  • MINOR HEAD TRAUMA OR INJURY – A head injury from a fall or accident, even one that doesn’t cause loss of consciousness, can trigger memory problems.

  • VITAMIN B-12 DEFICIENCY – Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells, and a vitamin B-12 deficiency can result in memory problems.

  • THYROID DISORDERS – When a person suffers from hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. In contrast, hyperthyroidism occurs when the gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This hormone controls the way cells use energy, and when these levels are off, short-term memory loss can become an issue. If treated early, this kind of memory loss may be reversible.

  • MENOPAUSE – When menopause symptoms trigger sleep disturbances, brain fog and memory loss can occur. The changing levels of estrogen are believed to have a significant effect on the brain, because estrogen contributes to language skills, attention, mood, memory, and other brain processes.

  • SLEEP APNEA – Untreated sleep apnea can trigger memory problems, and according to Forbes, a recent study of nearly 8,000 people revealed that people who slept less than six hours a night in their 50s, 60s and 70s had a 30% higher risk of dementia than their peers who slept more.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that any concerns related to memory loss should be addressed with a physician.

Click here for more information on how doctors diagnose and treat various forms of memory loss.