Managing Memory Issues

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2021

Memory problems are one challenge you may face with epilepsy. Memory issues can occur with epilepsy because of the disease itself, the treatment used to manage it, or from other issues. Managing memory loss begins with recognizing what might be causing it.1

Along with partnering with your doctor, keeping some tips and considerations in mind can help you manage this frustrating complication.

How can epilepsy lead to memory issues?

Epilepsy can impact your memory in different ways. Some of these may include:1-3

  • Seizures, which can directly affect areas of the brain responsible for memory. However, seizures in any part of the brain lead to cognitive disturbance, especially if they generalize to involve large parts of the brain.
  • Anti-seizure drugs, which can cause brain fog or worsen memory.
  • Surgery, which removes part of the brain where seizures occur. This can lead to memory issues, especially if the part of the brain removed is important for memory.
  • Anxiety and depression, which can make it harder to focus on information.
  • Sleep issues, leaving you feeling like you cannot focus or recall information.

What should I do?

If you think you are having memory loss, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will want to know if these issues are related to epilepsy itself, your treatment, or something else.4

Your doctor may look at a variety of things to find the cause of your memory problems, including:4

After a thorough evaluation, your doctor may suggest interventions that can improve your memory.4

Sometimes, memory loss can be a sign of something more serious. Your doctor will be able to determine if this is the case. This is especially important if you notice that your memory loss significantly affects your ability to function, rapidly worsens over a short period of time, or is associated with other neurological symptoms.5

General tips for managing memory issues

Repeat information

Saying important things out loud, jotting them down on paper, or setting a reminder may help you remember them. By doing this, you process the information in different ways (hearing, speaking, and seeing). This might make you more likely to jog your memory.6

Choose what is important

You cannot remember everything. Choose what is most important, and focus your mind on that. Weeding out the stuff that is not as important will clear the path for you to ignore the rest.6

Make a list

Focus your attention on what you need for your list. Keep it simple, and use what works for you. Some people like to use lists for everything they do each day. Others like them for things they may need at the store, such as groceries. Either way, try making a list and see if it works for you. You may find it a good way to sharpen your memory.6

Make it personal

You are much more likely to remember something if it is tied to a personal memory or something you care about.6

Keep it in the same place

Are you always misplacing your keys? Instead of leaving them all over your house, decide on a spot inside your front door that is easy to find. Tell your family so they do not move them.6

Be physically active

Staying fit is important for both your mind and your body. Physical activity increases blood flow to all parts of your body, including your brain. Exercise can be safely performed in epilepsy, with some considerations. Talk to your doctor about which activities are best for you.5

Stretch your brain too

Like your body, your brain needs exercise too. Keep it fit by doing things that will challenge your brain. Think puzzles, learning new skills, reading, or even playing chess with friends.5

Stay social

Depression and stress can both lead to memory loss. Look for ways you can socialize with friends, family, support groups, or others. This is especially important if you live alone. Some people may need medicine to manage their depression.5

Find a method that works for you

Your drug management needs are unique to you. You may have several drugs to take at different times of the day. This can get confusing, even for those without memory loss. Find a system that works for you. There are many tracking options out there – online, apps, paper. You may find that printing a medicine schedule and leaving it in a visible spot in your home is helpful.7

Whatever works for you, make it a habit! This can help make sure you do not miss a dose and stay on the treatment regimen your doctor prescribes.7

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