Dr Karyn Boundy discusses the causes, symptoms, testing and possible treatments of memory problems.

Hello, I’m Dr Karyn Boundy, a senior neurologist at the Central Northern Adelaide Health Service, and now I work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I joined the Editorial Advisory Board of the Virtual Neuro Centre 2 years ago and today I would like to share with you my insights on memory disturbances.

I run a memory clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and see a lot of people who come worried about their memory. Some of them will have dementia and have significant memory problems but if you have a memory complaint it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have Alzheimer’s Disease.

There are many treatable causes of memory problems: quite simple medical problems, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid abnormalities, sleep disturbances also, that can contribute to memory complaints. Depression is also a common cause of memory disturbance; poor concentration and poor sleep contribute to that. It is important however, if you have some form of memory problem that disturbs your activities of daily living, so that you can’t do your usual activities or sport, golf, etc., then it’s important you pursue that with your general practitioner. Simple tests such as a memory test, the mini mental examination, or more complex tests performed by psychologists can be quite helpful in sorting out what are the different factors that are affecting your memory.

One of the problems in the past has been fearfulness in seeking attention from the doctor in regard to a memory problem. Simple tests will be done such as blood tests, brain imaging, perhaps magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or spect imaging to investigate the type of memory complaint. It could be something as simple as a recent cerebrovascular accident, that is a stroke, and therefore vascular disease might need to be treated and further prevented, or they may find it’s a deficiency of a vitamin, for example B12, or hormone, such as thyroxine. It is important however to have it followed up to see if the memory problem is getting any worse.

But for those people who do have a diagnosis of dementia given to them, there now are good treatments for this. There are 3 drugs available on the market, these are called cholinesterase inhibitors and these are able to be prescribed in Australia and elsewhere in the world for Alzheimer’s Disease, and there are other simple treatments that can help if mood is a problem, for example depression, or if behaviour is a problem. There are also quite useful medications, for example risperidone, if behaviour is an issue in an individual who has a memory problem.

Thank you very much for asking me to talk about memory problems today, I could only encourage you to pursue this with your own general practitioner if you feel you have some issues, much better to go to the doctor with a complaint and find out it’s just being the worry.

Thank you.

More information on Memory Loss

More information on Alzheimer’s Disease