TIA-Related Memory Loss
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief episode during which parts of the brain do not receive enough blood. Because the blood supply is restored quickly, brain tissue is not permanently damaged. These attacks are often early warning signs of a stroke, however.
In rare cases, TIA can cause memory loss.
Symptoms of memory loss due to a transient ischemic attack are often temporary and vary depending on the area of the brain affected.
Short-term memory loss is the most common form of memory loss due to a TIA. Patients experiencing short-term memory loss will have vivid memories from long ago, but will have difficulty remembering the events of the present day.
Symptoms of memory loss include:
- Difficulty paying attention and concentrating
- Difficulty organizing thoughts or actions
- Difficulty deciding what to do next
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty understanding speech
Causes and Risk Factors
Patients at risk of experiencing a transient ischemic attack are at a higher risk of developing memory loss due to a TIA. Risk factors for experiencing a TIA include:
- Narrowing of the arteries, usually caused by atherosclerosis. This is when fatty material builds up and hardens on an artery wall. This material can break off and get lodged in smaller blood vessels in the brain.
- Cerebral artery stenosis
- Spasms in the walls of the arteries
- High blood pressure
- A lack of oxygen in the blood flowing to the brain, which can occur when a person is severely anemic, has carbon monoxide poisoning or has leukemia or polycythemia, a condition that produces abnormal blood cells and clotting
Transient ischemic attack patients are tested for any signs of memory loss using neurological exams focused on the person's mental abilities.
Imaging diagnostic tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a Computed tomography (CT) scan can show the inside structures of the brain to determine if any areas have been permanently damaged.
If a more serious form of memory loss, known as vascular dementia, is suspected, the medical team may also use a carotid ultrasound to diagnose the condition. This procedure is used to see if there are any signs of narrowing in the arteries that run up the neck and supply blood to the brain, known as carotid arteries. This procedure is non-invasive and uses sound waves to create images of the arteries.
Medications may be used to increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help with changes in memory and judgment. Other medications may help patients with vascular dementia by boosting their brain's ability to process, store and retrieve information.
Memory loss due to a TIA is often temporary and the medical team may decide to observe the patient's symptoms for a while before choosing a treatment plan.