Imagine sitting at your work desk or walking down the street and suddenly not remembering where you are or how you got there.  These symptoms are common for people with transient global amnesia (TGA), a rare condition that strikes without warning and erases all memory of recent events.  While the prospects of developing TGA sound terrifying, learning more about it can help dispel some misconceptions and fears.

More Symptoms of Transient Global Amnesia

People with TGA come up empty when asked to recall events that occurred very recently or as far back as one year.  While they remember who they are and recognize others, TGA sufferers may repeat a question several times because they don't recollect the answer given a few seconds prior.  Fortunately, cases of transient global amnesia are short-lived (usually less than 24 hours) and they are unlikely to occur more than once in a lifetime.

The Cause of Transient Global Amnesia

Experts don't know what causes transient global amnesia, but they do know it is not attributed to a neurological condition, epilepsy, or stroke.  It occurs more often in people 50 years of age or older, and some experts suspect a connection between TGA and migraines.  According to anecdotal reports, some events that might trigger TGA include:

  • Arduous physical activity
  • Medical procedures like angiography or endoscopy
  • Mild head trauma
  • Rapid immersion in hot or cold water
  • Severe emotional distress
  • Sexual intercourse


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Diagnosis of Transient Global Amnesia

Memory loss of any kind merits immediate medical attention.  Specific signs and symptoms help doctors diagnose transient global amnesia:

  • Sudden memory loss as verified by a witness
  • Retention of personal identity and recognition of others
  • Non-impaired cognition
  • No evidence of limb paralysis, involuntary movement, or problems with word recognition that may indicate damage to the brain


When memory for recent events is suddenly wiped clean, it can be a frightening experience.  People who suspect they've been struck with transient global amnesia should seek immediate medical attention because a number of life-threatening conditions can also impair memory.  Once transient global amnesia is identified, there is no prescribed treatment.  It is thought to resolve on its own with no known repercussions.