What is transient global amnesia?

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Transient global amnesia (TGA): Overview

Transient global amnesia (TGA) is a rare type of amnesia that causes sudden memory loss. When this happens you cannot remember events from your recent past or make new memories. You may also not know where you are, why you are there, or what the date is. You may ask the same question many times. Unlike other types of amnesia, you do know who you are and you can recognize people that you know. An episode usually does not last more than 6 hours and it rarely happens again.

What causes TGA is not fully known. But, in some cases, an intense workout, sex, or stress may cause an episode. People who get migraines are more likely to have TGA.

Your doctor probably did an exam and ran some tests to rule out certain health problems that can also cause sudden memory loss, such as a stroke, brain tumor, seizure, head injury, or an infection. If your doctor did not find any of these things to be the cause of your memory loss, you will not need treatment and you can go back to your usual activities. Although you may never be able to remember what happened right before or during the episode, the rest of your memory should come back.

TGA does not increase the chance that you will have a stroke or seizures in the future.

How can you care for transient global amnesia (TGA)?

  • There is no treatment for TGA. Expect your symptoms to go away with time.
  • Take good care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet. Get plenty of rest. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress. Regular exercise is a good way to manage stress.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have questions about TGA.

Transient global amnesia (TGA): When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You develop a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • You do not know who you are or where you are.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You suddenly lose your memory again.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You are dizzy.
  • You are more confused, forgetful, or upset than usual.
  • You notice changes in your behavior or personality.
  • You begin to have trouble with familiar things, such as how to read or how to tell time.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.