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What is amnesia?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Amnesia refers to memory loss, either temporarily or permanently. Amnesia seldom causes total memory loss, but a person suffering from amnesia may have difficulty remembering certain experiences and information. Losing memories from before the amnesia is called retrograde amnesia. Someone with amnesia who finds it difficult to learn and create new memories has anterograde amnesia. Amnesia may last just a few minutes or a few hours, and it may involve only recent memories or more long-term memories.

You probably learned about amnesia by seeing it play out in a movie or a soap opera. A character suddenly cannot remember who he or she is and where he or she came from.

Sometimes the loss of memory is caused by a head injury and other times it is spurred by a traumatic event.

In real life, however, the condition also can be caused by prescription drugs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.