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September 23rd, 2010
08:00 AM ET

What are normal symptoms after Transient Global Amnesia?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Lynn Lemmon, Dunedin, Florida

"My husband recently had his second episode of Transient Global Amnesia. All neuro tests are normal, as expected. However, he had ringing in the ears and dizziness for two to three months leading up to this episode and continuing after it. He also has a persistent headache just above the eyes since this incident. Are all of these things related? If so, what can be done about them?"

Answer:

Thank you for your question, Lynn. I will begin by saying that Transient Global Amnesia is one of those neurological enigmas - an event that has been described in the medical literature for decades, yet little is known about what causes it or how to prevent it. As its name suggests, TGA episode is sudden, transient (temporary) memory loss. It is a rare event. A person might be in the middle of an activity and suddenly their memory stalls.

TGA is not wholesale memory loss:  people retain basics like who they are, but they may not know, for example, what day it is, where they are, or what they were doing only moments before - and their ability to learn anything new is temporarily impaired. TGA episodes tend to be brief, lasting hours, but usually no more than a day. There is an interesting list of events that tend to precede an episode of TGA like exposure to cold water, emotional stress, pain, and sexual intercourse.

TGA is a disconcerting event, especially for those who witness it, because it echoes other neurological disorders, such as stroke or epilepsy, but what defines TGA is that the memory lapse is simply that - there is no vascular or brain damage as a result of the episode.

Although I cannot speak specifically about your husband's case, I can say that some of the symptoms you spell out commonly accompany episodes of TGA. In fact, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, trembling, sweating, visual disturbance, and racing heartbeat are all symptoms associated with TGA. But having those same symptoms (the headache and dizziness, for example) after the TGA episode is uncommon.

So, what can be done? The first step is to ensure that your husband's recent episode was, in fact, TGA. Keep in mind that there are other vascular disorders that mimic TGA and stroke. If the headache, dizziness and ringing in the ears persist, you may want to take another trip to your neurologist, if only for peace of mind.


soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Darlene LEE

    I had TGA a little over 4yrs ago and have had short term memory loss ever since. Is there anything I can do to improve my memory?

    November 1, 2016 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. better now

    I experienced MANY episodes of TGA. (I'm now 50. First episode at 30 y.o.)

    At first once per year, then as time progressed, quarterly, then monthly, eventually 4 in one day. 😦

    Lots of testing, lots of doctors, lots of head scratching.

    Finally, a (great!) neurologist put me on Verapamil ER 120mg (1 per day).

    No episodes in last 4 years !!!

    November 7, 2016 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jeanette Jenne

    I had a TGA episode about 10 years ago. The only trigger seemed to be that I was outside on a cold day and remember being tired and cold. The first thing someone noticed was when my granddaughter about 10 years old mentioned to someone else that Grandma was funny; she looked like she was awake but was asleep. I remembered later that I had commented to someone that it was really cold and she kind of agreed it was cool but neither she nor any of the 8 or 10 others around felt cold. They got my husband who noticed I kept saying I was cold so they put me on the couch by the wood stove and piled on blankets. I went to sleep and didn't wake up for nearly 4 hours. Interesting that no one took me to the Dr. or called an ambulance. Three days later I went to my Dr. who sent me to a neurologist. He diagnosed TGA and said apparently the cold triggered it. He told me to not get that cold again. Later I was diagnosed with Raynauds Syndrome so staying warm enough is a constant issue even when the weather is warm. The Dr. said only 1 episode isn't dangerous but if it happened again I would have to be put on medication. I have not had any known after effects from the episode but I concentrate on not getting cold-namely fingers and toes.

    January 6, 2017 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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    January 9, 2017 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Stell

    I never heard of anyone having this terrible debilitating event before my husband sufferred one the day after halloween 2015. Exact same repetetive questions from a very anxious man.. my sister was over the night before and we had to drive her home, my husband drove but i had to give directions, roads he had known for over 40 years were alien to him. Got home and he recovered memory by next day but recalled much of events. We hoped it was a one off horrible experience, but out of the blue on sunday he woke with continuous questions, what day is it what year how old am i, so so upsetting. He eventually exhsusted me and himself and dropped to sleep bout 4.30 so this epuside was shorter but he has no recollection of any of the events of that day from 8.30 to waking later. I can sympathise with all the above and the ever present question...will this occur again? Its like landmines that we dont know when the next step will result in amnesia. I work for gp and know that your records can be marked with amnesia or worse possible dimentia, your licence to drive can be taken away. If your livelihood depends on it then its a worry. My husband now feels very worried, seems no cure and the professionals have no idea either. I can only pinpoint my hubbys experience if tga to stress. He had 2 elderly parents to look out for, step dad with altzheimers who died in 2016 and an increasing worry for his mum now. My husband has told me he cant live with the worry he might be out or driving. Should he tell everyone he is out alone with? He is very proud and we have been married many years but he said he would kill himself rather than lose his memory. I am extremely worried. Having TGA is real and looks like theres no real answers to all our questions.

    January 17, 2017 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Persecuted

    These symptoms seem strange, i am being gang stalked, and the outcome is similar, i have only realised things that have been put in place for me over ten years ago, including my medical records being adjusted

    January 28, 2017 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Anne Musgrave

    This happened to me on Dec 20, 2016. I had been talking about how Christmas always made me think about the death of my first husband at the age of 25. This happened in 1962. I have been married to my second husband for more than 50 years. Did an adrenalin surge cause the TGA? If so, what a powerful example of the mind acting on the body. Or rather the mind BEING part of the body,

    February 1, 2017 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Matt

    Had my 1st TGA episode while driving 8 days ago. Stuck my head under shower faucet in tub before my wife noticed I was wobbly in the bathroom. Went to lay down and stated that I thought I was in a dream. Laid down for 10 minutes and felt fine. Got dressed and went outside and shoveled snow for 5 minutes before driving to work. On the way to work drove off the road into the snow covered ditch. Woke up to someone knocking on my window- who had been following me-asking if I was alright. I said "what happened". Had no memory of this incident that had just occurred. Was taken to the hospital for tests. MRI, etc. all negative. Hospitalized for 24 hours+ and released.
    Am scheduling neurological appointments to try to get answers.
    Bizzare- just bizzare!
    Matt

    February 17, 2017 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Therese

    I just had my first episode of amnesia two days ago. I'm perfectly healthy, have low-normal blood pressure, take no medications for anything. I signed up for a hike with other people which was scheduled after work. I woke up the next morning after having strange dreams of feeding my chickens and ducks after coming home from the hike, but I feed them in the morning, not at night. They all had a lot of food when I checked them in the morning, so I suspect I fed them a whole lot during the night. I have no memory of a 5 mile hike, slight memory of being at a store and a gas station trying to put gas in my car, I drove myself home but have no memory of doing so. I have a garmin connect and vivofit that show I walked 9.5 miles that day so I know I went on the hike and the group reported I was there. i don't remember driving to the trail head so I went back the following day and recognized the trees there and have a general idea where I parked. I believe I was cold because I remember something about reaching into my pocket to get my keys and relieved I had them and didn't lose them on the hike and that the pocket felt warm to my hand. I drove home and remembered something about noticing bus stops but that was about it, I recognized the bus stops when I retraced the route. My google location shows where I was and the routes I took both leaving work and going to the hike and then stops I made going home.

    My google location accounts for the time it took making it home, apparently I was at a store for about 45 minutes but no purchases seem to be made, and a gas station for almost 30 minutes and no purchases other than gas. I only remember something about trying to put in gas but not the gas station itself.

    Pretty weird when you have to check your google locations to know where you were and how you got home.

    March 2, 2017 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Name*mitch

    Was having sex few years back had tga episode was 57 lasted about 12 hours had one brief episode again recently only lasted seconds again having sex I also had shingles about 4 years ago and still have no feeling on whole left side of face which I now know as Ramsey hunt syndrome! I still have pain shocks and teeth aches on that side! Dont believe these 2 could even be related but not sure! All I know is I'm now a little nervous having sex and honestly just glad it doesntbhappen when I'm watching football! The sex I can go without but the football I couldn't!/any correlation between Ramsey hunt and tga????

    March 19, 2017 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Buster

      Name*mitch: Funny but not funny. Sorry about your other issues, just terrible. But glad to meet someone else who experienced TGA during sex (at orgasm for me). My neurologist swore it would never happen again. The 2nd episode was way worse. I wish the Drs doing neurology studies would take this more seriously. It is terrifying and I am so afraid it means I will develop early onset alzheimer's or dementia. Where are the studies? These stories are proof that way more information is needed! I'd give up watching sports before I give up sex but alas, I am terrified to have sex.

      November 18, 2017 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  11. Deb Kit

    I'm a 54yr old female. I've had maybe 8 TGA episodes in 3 years. 2 distinctively after exercise (outdoor bootcamp style and cold weather). Two other episodes after coming into contact with bleach or bleach products. 2 other episodes while driving. Feeling like one side of my brain did not recognize the street I was on or i had the feeling that I had lived there many years ago. The other side of my brain was telling me "keep going you are fine this is the right way." Pre-episode indications are not being able to think clearly. Talking to a friend i kept forgetting what i wanted to say. It was annoying, and two days later had an attack while driving home. I live alone so I'm learning to get myself home and don't seem to go under as deep. If others are around I seen to totally lose it and get the typical cant remember where I live and ask the same questions over and over. ERs run their test and find nothing. One neurologist suggest it's a brain bleed brought on by the exercise. Altho I think lack of drinking water is a factor. I don't drink enough water. I'm not happy to see so many others who have this TGA, but I'm happy to know I'm not alone in it. It sucks. I was told it probably wouldn't happen again but it does. I get a headache after the event and just feel disoriented, don't trust myself. I love to dance so I switched from bootcamp exercise to Zumba. I did fine until last Monday night. I had an episode during class. I managed to get home. Now I'm afraid to do my Zumba but I need to exercise! Grrrr.

    April 12, 2017 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Gail

    I recently ended up in the hospital with what they suspect is a transient global amnesia. It occurred right after I had put my cat down. I have about four hours of not knowing anything and asking the same questions over and over again. My symptoms are classic TGA but now I'm scared to death. I was admitted to the hospital and all my test and CT results came back normal. I have a slight headache which seems to be going away. I am so afraid this will happen again. I see my doctor on Friday.

    June 13, 2017 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. janet

    Hi, had a TGA episode 3 days ago. Got up early, was planning on crushing it in the gym before work. Came to in ER. Nurse told me I asked the same question over and over. No recollection of driving to gym, ,being in gym. ambulance ride, ,IV insertion or CT scan. In hospital overnight. Cardiac and brain work up. All fine. Neurologist says TGA. Remember breakfast that morning and then ER. Lost 4 hours. I feel a little "off", not quite as sharp as usual, getting better as each day passes. History of migraines, on Allegra & Flonase , had light breakfast, coffee and 4 oz water morning of incident. Been working 7 days a week for about 2 months. Always running from 1st job to 2nd then home, housework, grocery shopping. 58 years old, eat healthy, love to exercise. Did take about a 3 week hiatus from gym because of schedule. Remember was planning on crushing it in weight room morning of incident. I am embarrassed to return to gym. How was I acting, what was I saying, did everyone stop and stare as I was carted off on a stretcher? I will go back. Plan on bringing discharge papers and explaining. Going to give friends name and number to call if it happens again. Don't want the ambulance, testing, hospital circus again. I am trying to do what I always do. It's scary. Feel like my body has betrayed me when I try to do everything right. Nurse at hospital told me to slow down. Seems like the best advice I've heard. Making time to relax. I pray it does not happen again. Thank you all for your posts.

    June 14, 2017 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. peggy

    Had anyone of the TGA people been on an airplane during the week of your episode?

    July 19, 2017 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. peggy

    My event was April 28. I have changing ongoing symptoms. Depends on the day. No stamina. Shocked by loud noises. Hot water seems extremely hot. Make mistakes I would never have made before. Have to be deliberate about concentration. Sometimes wobbly. Pupils nonresponsive. Occasional nausea.
    Wondering about aero toxic syndrome. I was on plane five days prior to TGA event.

    July 19, 2017 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. peggy

    Since brain testing does not show indications of TGA existence, why not check elsewhere, such as blood tests.
    TGA could be toxins; poisons of some variety.
    If it doesn't show in the brain, test the blood, or nervous system..

    August 8, 2017 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Person

    So sexual intercourse can cause TGA? If that's the case. Could people be charged with rape if something like that happened during the action? Or does the said person who has tga need to warn the other person before hand?

    October 2, 2017 at 00:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. M.Gould

    Hi
    I experienced my first TGA in my late 50's about 10 years ago when experiencing a lot of stress – I woke up from an afternoon nap and 'classic sign' repeatedly asked the same questions. My partner took me to hospital thinking I had had a Stroke. I stayed in overnight. All testing results were Normal and I was discharged the following day. The Emergency Consultant told me TGA's only happen to 'bright people' under stress or under water – some consolation. My TGA lasted approximately 4 hours. I had been under stress. What I have had since are 'fugue states' but only when leaving the swimming pool. It seems immersing myself in cold water can trigger a 'fugue state'. I like to swim at our local pool and so it happens, but extremely rarely. My Long Term Memory is not affected. I have no trouble driving myself home and can carry on a conversation. I am told immersing myself in cold water is my trigger + stress at the time. I was told by the Consultant that 'it only happens to bright people' – perhaps some consolation?

    October 22, 2017 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jill Baty

    I recently had what we believe was a 6 hour bout of TGA. First and hopefully last episode. I am 60 and had my first classical migraine when I was 9. I still have the occasional migraine aura. Magnesium seems to have helped. During the episode I was at home and then went to the ER by ambulance. I knew where I was but asked over and over- did I have a TIA? Did I have a stroke? Are my eyes tracking? Is my smile dropping? What about weakness in my arms or legs? And I would proceed to answer most of my own questions! My daughter believes when I got confused, I then had a panic attack and when she and my husband calmed me down, those symptoms went away. I had a CAT scan, MRI, Carotid artery ultrasound, a month ago, all normal, but with no diagnosis, and I’m still waiting to see a neurologist to discuss. (Side note, I recently retired to KY from MI. Healthcare is not even close to comparable to what I was used to in MI, IL, WI, OH IN and I don’t know why!). I did send info to my MI neurologist who responded promptly and agreed with our thoughts (from our web search) that it was a TGA event. Interestingly my mom has short term memory loss that has been the same for the last 7 years- she is 88. It’s probably vascular dementia but wow- her symptoms are so like my TGA episode!

    Now I’d like to address the earlier question/comment. Since the episode, I first had some verbal issues that have since gone away (I think). I might want to say drawer and instead say door.i wouldn’t even say the whole word before self correcting like doo-drawer I had maybe 7 incidents per day to start with. And after a week I was having one incident per day. It might have been from the stress of the original episode? The other thing was I was very tired after the episode. Like I had studied for an exam,and it was finally over! My brain felt tired if that’s possible. I thought I might be staring a bit more instead of moving my eyes- read about that LoL but I was quite conscious of my thoughts- no seizure. That’s much better now. Lastly I don’t have a headache exactly, not a pain, a very mild discomfort. That has been continually improving.

    One thought another doctor had was that I have inflammation and it wouldn’t hurt to eat better, like Whole 30 or Eat Fat to Be Fit. I think it certainly can’t hurt!! So I have been working on that for a month!!!

    November 14, 2017 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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