Though distressing, transient global amnesia is not a dangerous condition, and it’s not known to be a sign of more serious ones. No treatments are needed, but triggers can be avoided.

Transient global amnesia is a temporary loss of some memory. These episodes come on suddenly and typically last for a few hours before resolving on their own.

People experiencing an episode are able to remember who they are and can recognize friends and family. However, memories of the current situation and recent events are missing, and they’re unable to form new memories.

This condition can be frightening, but it’s not life threatening. It’s not a sign of a stroke or seizure, and it doesn’t have any lasting health effects. No treatment is needed to resolve this condition.

Transient global amnesia is a sudden and temporary episode of confusion. It’s more common in people ages 50 and older than in younger people. It affects a person who is otherwise alert, and it’s not caused by another condition, such as stroke or epilepsy.

People experiencing transient global amnesia aren’t able to make new memories. They’re not able to remember where they are, how they got there, or what’s happening. They might keep repeating the same questions or be unable to answer questions about events that happened in recent months.

However, people experiencing transient global amnesia do remember who they are, and they’re able to recognize close friends and family members.

People recover slowly over the course of a few hours and typically begin to remember events.

Experts aren’t sure what causes this condition. Some research suggests there might be a link between transient global amnesia and a history of migraine, but the factors that lead to these conditions are not understood.

It’s also possible that transient global amnesia is linked to blockages in the veins, but this isn’t a proven link.

Commonly reported events that people who experience transient global amnesia think might have triggered their episodes include:

  • mild head injuries
  • intense physical activity
  • sudden immersion in very cold or very hot water
  • extreme stress
  • sexual activity
  • medical testing or procedures

Being unable to create new memories or remember your recent past is the biggest symptom of transient global amnesia. Other symptoms include:

  • sudden onset of confusion and memory loss
  • memory loss that lasts no more than 34 hours (typically much shorter)
  • repeating the same questions
  • knowing who you are, despite memory loss
  • recognizing familiar people, places, and objects
  • being awake and alert throughout the episode
  • normal thinking ability
  • no sign of brain damage
  • memory that returns gradually
  • no epilepsy or seizure activity

Long-term effects of transient global amnesia

There are no direct long-term complications or effects of transient global amnesia. It’s not thought to be a risk factor for other conditions, including epilepsy and stroke.

It’s possible for someone who has had one episode of transient global amnesia to have a second episode, but more than two episodes are rare.

However, an episode of transient global amnesia can be stressful and upsetting. It can be emotionally distressing to realize you had hours without your memory function. Some people find the experience frightening.

It’s a good idea to discuss your episode with a doctor and to ask any questions you have. This can help alleviate some fears.

There’s no treatment needed for transient global amnesia. The condition resolves on its own and has no known long-term effects or risks.

If you’ve experienced transient global amnesia and now have anxiety over possible additional episodes, it may help to talk about your experience with a therapist. Click here to learn more about finding the right therapist for you.

You can learn more about transient global amnesia by reading the answers to some common questions.

Is transient global amnesia a ministroke?

It’s easy to confuse transient global amnesia and ministroke, or transient ischemia attack (TIA), but these two conditions aren’t the same.

Transient global amnesia is not linked to stroke. It does not increase the risk of a stroke and does not have any lasting effects.

A TIA, however, can be a warning sign of a future stroke that requires medical treatment.

What is the difference between a TIA and transient global amnesia?

A TIA and transient global amnesia are very different conditions. Although transient global amnesia can be frightening, it’s not a serious medical condition. It resolves on its own and has no lasting effects.

A TIA is a very serious medical event. It requires urgent medical care. Treatment for a TIA often includes medication and surgery.

Additionally, the symptoms of transient global amnesia are limited to memory, while the symptoms of a TIA can include weakness on one side of the body, vision problems, and slurred speech.

Can you drive with transient global amnesia?

Yes. Episodes of transient global amnesia typically last only a few hours. People who experience an episode remember who they are and who their friends and family are. They are still able to follow directions and drive, cook, or perform tasks at work.

However, because these episodes can be distressing, it may not be advisable to drive during one. It can be helpful to acquire a medical bracelet, or another reminder, of whom to call for transportation help during an episode.

Living with amnesia

It can be frightening to live with amnesia, but there are resources that can help. You can check out:

  • Transient Global Amnesia Project: The Transient Global Amnesia Project has resources for people who have experienced transient global amnesia, including printable wallet cards so you can ensure you always have the information you need.
  • Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) Facebook group: The TGA Facebook group is for anyone who has experienced an episode of transient global amnesia.
  • The Memory Hub Virtual Coffee Chats: The Memory Hub is a space for people managing any kind of memory loss. You can join in on their virtual coffee chats to talk with others experiencing memory symptoms.
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Transient global amnesia is a temporary condition that comes on suddenly and causes memory loss. It’s not the result of more serious conditions such as stroke or seizure, and it’s not a warning sign of, or risk factor for, those conditions.

People experiencing transient global amnesia know who they are and can recognize friends, family members, places, and objects. They can do everyday tasks and follow directions.

However, during an episode, they are unable to remember where they are, how they got there, and what is currently happening. Their memories of recent events are typically gone, and they are unable to make new memories.

Episodes typically last a few hours and then resolve on their own. No treatment is needed, but people with the condition can take steps to make sure they are prepared for future episodes.