Short-term memory problems and dementia

Worried about your memory? Find out more about short-term memory problems and what you can do next.

What can cause memory problems?

If you are worried that your memory is getting noticeably worse, or if memory problems are beginning to affect your everyday life, it is important to visit your GP.

Memory problems can be due to a number of reasons. It happens to all of us from time to time - you can't put a name to a face, you go upstairs and then forget what you went up for, you take a bit longer sometimes to find the right word. Most of the time, such slips are a nuisance rather than a sign of something more serious.

Many of us also notice that our memory becomes less reliable as we get older. Stressdepression, and certain physical illnesses are just a few of the things that can make memory worse.

But sometimes memory loss can be an early sign of a medical condition, such as dementia.

Alzheimer's Society provides help and support to those affected by dementia.

Normal ageing vs dementia

We explain the difference between normal ageing and dementia, including examples of each.

See the difference

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Your symptoms may point to dementia if you have become significantly more forgetful to the extent that it is affecting your daily life. This is especially true if you:

  • struggle to remember recent events, although you can easily recall things that happened in the past
  • find it hard to follow conversations or programmes on TV
  • forget the names of friends or everyday objects
  • struggle to recall things you have heard, seen or read recently
  • regularly lose the thread of what you are saying
  • leave objects in unusual places (eg keys in a bathroom cabinet)
  • have problems thinking and reasoning
  • feel anxious, depressed or angry
  • feel confused even when in a familiar environment or get lost on familiar journeys
  • find that other people start to comment on your forgetfulness

Is dementia inherited?

Dementia is not usually inherited. The exceptions tend to be rarer forms of dementia or cases where someone develops the condition very young – say in their 50s or earlier. Having a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimer’s disease may increase your own chances of developing the condition very slightly, but it does not mean dementia is inevitable for you.

Genetics of dementia

Learn more about the role of genetics of dementia in different types of dementia.

Find out more

Does dementia only affect older people?

The chances of developing dementia increase as we get older and it is uncommon to get dementia before 65 years of age. However at least 42,000 people in the UK under 65 have dementia. This is sometimes referred to as ‘young-onset dementia’.

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