Transient global amnesia is a sudden, but temporary, episode of memory loss that is not caused by a more common neurological (brain related) condition, such as a stroke or seizure. An affected person typically forgets memories about a recent or current event. For example, a person may not know where they are or how they arrived. It is also common for an affected person to lose track of the current situation, which may cause them to repeat questions that were already answered. The main symptom of transient global amnesia includes sudden memory loss that lasts no more than 24 hours followed by a gradual return of memory.
There is no known cause of transient global amnesia. Common events that are associated with transient global amnesia include exposure to hot or cold water, strenuous physical activity, certain medical procedures (such as angiography and endoscopy), mild head trauma, and emotional distress. Risk factors include age (individuals older than 50 have a greater chance of having transient global amnesia) and a history of migraines. Diagnosis of transient global amnesia depends on an individual’s symptoms while also ruling out more serious causes of memory loss (such as a stroke, seizure or major head injury). Brain imaging (MRI or CT) and evaluation of the brain’s electrical activity (EEG) may be necessary to help rule out these causes. Once a more serious cause of temporary memory loss is ruled out, a doctor will use findings from both a physical and cognitive exam to confirm the diagnosis. There is not a treatment available for transient global amnesia. Fortunately, it is not associated with additional medical or cognitive problems and additional episodes of memory loss are not common.