Is there such thing as TIA memory loss?

2 answers | Last updated: Apr 04, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is there such thing as TIA memory loss? I was 21 when I had my TIA. I was in good health, a non-smoker and a single mother of two toddlers. At that time, the term TIA was not yet established as far as I know. I was told that I had a mini-stroke and if I was feeling fine, I could just follow up with my family doctor for prevention. I noticed no side effects at the time. Fifteen to twenty years later I noticed my memory was getting worse and worse. I went to a neurologist and ran an EEG and a few other tests, and all showed normal activity. I am 42 now and I struggle daily with memory issues, long-term and short-term. Communication is also tough sometimes, meaning I cannot relay thoughts very well and I forget vocabulary. Is there anything I can do? It has really effected my family life quite a bit. Is there any connection between TIA and memory loss?

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

It sounds like you could have a serious condition, and based on what you are telling me, I think you need to get yourself to a large, tertiary, Neurology clinic for evaluation, and soon.

Having a "TIA" at age 21is highly unusual.  At that age, you should have been seen by a stroke specialist for that diagnosis to have been made.  A search for clotting disorders, heart defects, and genetic stroke diseases should have been undertaken.  In addition, a TIA, by definition, leaves no lasting damage, so it cannot be the cause of your current situation.  Either you have had multiple other events over the years, or the diagnosis is not correct.

In either case, it sounds like you need an MRI of the brain with contrast to find out what the brain looks like.  In addition, you will likely need blood tests, possible lumbar puncture for cerebrospinal fluid sampling, and possibly genetic tests for Neurological diseases of the young.

In summary, you need to get to a tertiary Neurology center right away.  There is a good chance that whatever you have is treatable, and needs to be evaluated soon before additional damage is done.  Your problem may be stroke related, but it may not, and needs to be evaluated carefully.

Community Answers

Cwn answered...

I am asking two clarification questions as a follow up to your response to "a fellow caregiver's" question and situation.

First. what is a tertiary neurologist?

Second, the reason that I am asking is because 8 years ago I was diagnosed with an episode of Transient Global Amnesia - and then the Sunday before this last one, I experienced something similar to that [which I thought WAS another Transient Global Amnesia episode. and wh/ my docs PA agreed with that diagnosis after I'd called the ER of the 1st attack to send their records to my present doc's office], but l'm NOW thinking I may have had a TIA or stroke instead!!

The reason I'm saying that is that I didn't "just" have memory loss with only bits and pieces of memories during the time I was "out of it"' THIS time. This time largely began with my having a BLACK OUT during which I apparently drove through 2 red lights. I then remember becoming conscious as I was about to go into a MAJOR intersection, after which slammed on the brakes, but still hit another vehicle!! I think the policeman who came to the scene realized something was wrong because even though I responded negatively to his asking me if I thought I was hurt by the accident, a little later - after I'd walked out of the car and sat down somewhere nearby, he told me that he thought that I should be taken by ambulance to the hospital and have an MRI "from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet." I remember nothing of that ambulance or MRI and only bits and pieces of my being at the hospital, but I DO remember having difficulty walking in a coordinated manner while there, and later saw that my BP was as high as 188/131 while I was there!! Then several hours after my friend picked me up from the hospital to take me home, he called to tell me that my speech had sounded like how his dad sounds when he's in the midst of a TIA or stroke. More importantly several days LATER (when all signs of a TGA should be all gone), I experienced extreme fatigue Fri and Sat afternoon, numbness in my feet at night Fri and Sat. night, small incidents of blurred vision Fri and Sat am, and I put two different items in my house in completely strange places! Also both Sat morning w/ friends, as well as tonight on the phone, I realized that several times I would be meaning to say a word, but that I would get the letters mixed up inside of it or add or deleted a letter within it. And I KNOW that that is more consistent with a TIA or stroke, and NOT with a TGA. I've made an appointment w/ my doc's PA tomorrow in order to re-evaluate that Global Transient Amnesia diagnosis, and I think I need to see a really good neurologist. so that is with I'd like to know "What is a TERTIARY neurologist?"

Also I am now 70 years old, and both my grandmother at the age of 65 and my mother at the age of 92 had severe debilitating strokes, so I'm wondering: "What are the similarities and differences between episodes of (a) Transient Global Amnesia, (2) a TIA, and (3) a stroke? And do either a TIA, a STROKE, or some other condition seem to 'fit' the symptoms I described?

Thank you for allowing me to respond with a question re: your response to "a fellow caregiver" rather than another answer - and to ask a couple of other related questions.

I wish her (and me) well in finding further answers to our questions, correct diagnosis, knowledge of anything we can do now to counter-act any present condition or damage, and especially to learn any preventative measures we might take to reduce our chances of any further problems. - I have already talked with someone at the STROKE PREVENTION CENTER in Spokane, and will BUY a book written by its founding doctors, Dr. Amy Doneen and Dr. Bale re: PREVENTING: STROKES ourselves via AMAZON, but there's no opening there til October. A Dr. AMEN also has written some good books re: preventing and treating brain situations..

Thank you again. Perhaps my questions and content may help someone else who's struggling with these kinds of things, too.

This is my first time here, so I apologize for writing more questions re: a fellow caregiver's situation as well as my own rather than an answer to her question.