Transient Global Amnesia

January 12, 2009 9:01:32 PM PST
Margie Clements, 59, has always been healthy but one day this summer she gave her husband Frank a real scare."She kept asking me the same questions- what time is it, what day is it?," Frank Clements said.

Margie said she remembers shopping with her grand daughter that day and spending time with Frank. Then she says everything goes blank. "She kept asking me what day it was- kept asking that over and over again," Frank said, adding, "I thought something was happening and I didn't know what."

Frank took her to the Emergency room. Doctors at Cooper University Hospital drew blood and got cat scans. Everything looked normal. But based on her symptoms, they diagnosed her with Transient Global Amnesia, or also known as TGA.

Neurologist Dr. Thomas Mirsen said, "It's a disorder where all of a sudden people can't make new memories. They get confused, they don't know where they are or what they're doing."

But he said the condition is rare and it's temporary. Margie's memory started coming back within about six hours. But what happened and why it happened is still a mystery.

"The problem is it's not that easy to study," Dr. Mirsen said. TGA happens unexpectedly. One theory believes it could be due to people over-exerting themselves and as their blood pressure goes up, congestion builds in the parts of the brain that control memory.

But what is known are some common triggers for TGA. About half of all cases happen after some kind of physical or emotional stress. It can also be provoked by sudden immersion in really hot or cold water or it could be brought on by sex.

Frank and Margie think that's what may have happened in her case. Frank said, "It all started when we got intimate together."

The good news is despite how scary it can be, it doesn't last and there's no long term effects. Margie is back to normal, but fears TGA will strike again. "I'm afraid I'm going to wind up someplace else one of these days," she said.

Dr. Mirsen says that's unlikely.Dr. Mirsen said, "the majority of cases are just one-time things, it's kind of like a fluke."

Typically TGA lasts no more than 24 hours. It's most commonly seen between the ages of 56 to 75. But younger people who get migraines may also be at risk.

There are no long-lasting effects,but the main symptom of sudden amnesia could also be the sign of a stroke or seizure and because of that, it's important to get to a hospital if you or a loved on has symptoms.