By Flavia Nassaka
When should you seek medical help?
It is normal to forget. We all forget some things, don’t we? But what if you wake up and take a shower. Shortly after you forget you have had a shower, go back into the bathroom and shower again? What if later in the day you remember that you actually showered twice? Is such forgetful also normal?
Dr. David Basangwa, a consultant psychiatrist, says at 40 years of age and above, the doctor explains, it’s normal forgetfulness if you forget but after sometime you either spontaneously remember or after thinking over it. You might also feel frustrated about your forgetfulness but exhibit the usual personality and behavior while responding to everyday challenges and consistently perform at work and other basic needs such as eating or cleaning up.
He says one should seek help if such forgetfulness becomes persistent as it is a sign of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
“People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with daily activities. They are often aware of the forgetfulness,” he says.
Fortunately, MCI can be reversed if one seeks treatment in time.
Another doctor, Dr. Hussein Senyonjo who is a neurosurgeon at Mulago hospital, says MCI is a stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and the development of dementia.
Dr. Hussein Senyonjo has been reviving people’s memories on a daily basis for the last fifteen years but he says he recently he got a patient like no other before. This one remembers nothing; not even the names of his former workmates or places he has been to.
Despite his energetic look and seemingly receptive smile as I approached him, the 54-year old former banker talks very little and struggles to keep up with our conversation.
Dr. Senyonjo says his memory was interfered with when he was hit hard on the head by a window frame. A brain scan revealed that the patient had suffered bleeding of the brain.
“We expect this memory loss to be short term but you never know how serious it can turn out to be because most memory loss problems begin like short term but can translate into dementia which is incurable,” he says.
Dementia is an illness associated with loss of thinking, memory and reasoning skills to the extent that one is unable to carry out their daily activities.
The doctor says though memory loss problem was formerly a disease of the elderly, many young people are continuously reporting to the unit with the problem and he expects the numbers to rise as more people are living a risky lifestyle making them more susceptible to non communicable diseases and even injuries.
Most patients admitted to the neurological unit every year according to Dr. Senyonjo have memory loss caused by injury as a result of an accident, stress, protein deficiency, brain tumors, strokes, sleep deprivation, intoxicating drugs such as marijuana, diabetes, medical drugs like tranquilizers, anti-depressants, morphine and some flu drugs though with such drugs, a person regains his memory the moment the dose is finished.