Headaches and Memory Loss: Causes and Treatments

Headaches accompanied with memory loss can be the result of a head injury. However, when the patient is not aware of an injury, this combination of symptoms can indicate the presence of an underlying condition. For this reason, any unexplained headache that is accompanied by memory loss should be subjected to investigation by a healthcare professional. This way, proper diagnosis will be reached and treatment can be provided.

What Causes Headaches and Memory Loss?

Besides head injury, here are some common causes.

1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This is the one common cause of headache. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 4 million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome. The disorder does not go away through resting, and is complicated by increased physical and mental activity.

The patient feels enlarged lymph nodes in armpits and neck, painful muscles, poor concentration, memory loss, sore throat and exhaustion that may last for more than 24 hours after physical activity.

2. Migraine

This neurological disorder interferes with the performance of some areas of the brain. This causes throbbing or pulsating pain in one part of the head. Migraine has been associated with transient global amnesia which causes temporary amnesia. The inability to access recent memory and difficulty in retaining memory of new activities last for a number of hours.

3. Sleep Apnea

This is a very common sleep disorder that involves extreme snoring and stoppage of breathing during sleep. It can lead to daytime fatigue and waking up with a headache. The condition is also linked with dementia and memory loss.

4. Brain Tumor

Headaches that also include dizziness, confusion, slurred speech, memory loss, weakness on one side of the body and loss of balance can indicate the presence of a brain tumor. Other symptoms include blurred or double vision and seizures. These symptoms should not be ignored; the patient should be taken to hospital immediately.

How Can Headaches and Memory Loss Be Treated?

1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There is no specific medical intervention for this disorder. However, addressing the various causes can bring about relief. Patients are advised to avoid extreme physical and mental activity. They should consider light exercises whose tempo they can increase steadily. Some cases of chronic fatigue syndrome require behavioral therapy under the guidance of a psychotherapist.

2. Migraine

Migraine has no specific treatment. For this reason, doctors offer help in reducing the symptoms when attacks occur, such as severe headaches and memory loss. The natural remedies include:

  • Adequate sleep
  • Stress reduction and avoidance
  • Adequate hydration
  • Regular physical activity


  • Analgesics: OTC drugs such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, naproxen and excedrin are used to reduce or eliminate the pain. Patients are advised to take the analgesics as early as possible to stop prevent the headache from worsening.
  • Anti-emetics: Medications such as metoclopramide are used for the control of symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
  • Serotonin Agonists: These include sumatriptan and are prescribed for treatment of migraines which don’t respond to OTC painkillers.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These are antidepressants such as tricyclics. They are used in reduction of symptoms of migraine despite the fact that they have not been authorized for such use in some countries.
  • Ergots: This class of treatment works best when the medication is used when the first signs of migraine appear.

3. Sleep Apnea

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure device) is a popular device in managing sleep apnea. The mask-like device is fitted over the mouth and nose so as to blow air through the patient's airways to keep it open during sleep.

Other medical options in the treatment of sleep apnea include jaw repositioning dental devices, surgery, etc. Lifestyle changes can also help reduce symptoms of sleep apnea. These lifestyle modifications include:

  • Lose Weight

Obesity and excess weight are some of the factors associated with sleep apnea. Losing weight can lead to a reduction or eradication of sleep apnea.

  • Keep off Alcohol

Alcohol is known to relax breathing muscles in the upper airways, leading to breathing and sleep disturbances. By avoiding alcohol, you can reduce occurrence of sleep apnea.

  • Stop Smoking

Tobacco smoking causes swelling in the upper airways, which leads to breathing difficulties, snoring, and apnea. Try to quit smoking.

  • Change Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your side as opposed to sleeping on your back is known to reduce snoring, in addition to possible headaches and memory loss.

4. Brain Tumor

Surgery is the most effective form of treatment for a brain tumor. But, because some tumors cannot be removed surgically due to their positioning in the brain, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be used. In some cases, radiation and chemotherapy are used as a follow-up treatment after surgery.

Another form of treatment known as Gamma Knife therapy is used in treating tumors that are located deep within the brain and other areas which are difficult to reach. This form of treatment involves delivering radiation that is focused on the tumor.

It is worth noting that cancer treatment injures other cells and tissues in the body. For this reason, you should discuss with your doctor and get as much information as possible about the treatment to enable you to make a decision. You will also need to discuss the rehabilitation requirements following the treatment.

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