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Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) - Cause

Blood clots that temporarily block blood flow to the brain are the most common cause of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Blood clots may develop for a variety of reasons.

  • A blood clot can form in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
    • Blood clots usually form in arteries damaged by plaque buildup, which is a process called atherosclerosis. High blood pressure may damage arteries camera.gif and cause plaque to build up.
    • Long-standing high blood pressure or diabetes may damage smaller blood vessels in the brain, causing a clot to form within the blood vessels and block blood flow.
  • A blood clot can form in another part of the body (often the heart) and travel through the bloodstream to an artery that supplies blood to the brain. For example, clots may form:

Also, an artery that is partially blocked with plaque can reduce blood flow to the brain and cause symptoms.

Rare causes of blood clots that can cause a TIA include:

  • Clumps of bacteria, tumor cells, or air bubbles that move through the bloodstream.
  • Conditions that cause blood cells to stick together. For example, having too many red blood cells (polycythemia), abnormal clotting factors, or abnormally shaped red blood cells, such as those caused by sickle cell disease, may cause blood clots to form.
  • Inflammation in the blood vessels, which may develop from conditions such as syphilis, tuberculosis, or other inflammatory diseases.
  • A head or neck injury that results in damage to blood vessels in the head or neck.
  • A tear in the wall of a blood vessel located in the neck.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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