Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) - Topic Overview
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) happens when blood
flow to part of the brain is blocked or reduced , often by a blood clot. After a
short time, blood flows again and the symptoms go away. With a stroke, the
blood flow stays blocked, and the brain has permanent damage. Some
people call a TIA a mini-stroke, because the
symptoms are those of a
stroke but don't last long.
TIA is a warning: it means you are likely to have a stroke in the future. If
you think you are having a TIA, call 911 or other emergency services right away. Early treatment can help prevent a
stroke. If you think you have had a TIA but your symptoms have gone away, you
still need to call your doctor right away.
Symptoms of a TIA are the same as symptoms of a stroke. But symptoms of a TIA don't last very long. Most of the time, they go away in 10 to 20 minutes. They may include:
- Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Sudden trouble speaking.
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
- Sudden problems with walking or balance.
clot is the most common cause of a TIA. Blood clots can be the result of
hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis),
heart attack, or
abnormal heart rhythms. The clot can block blood flow to part of the brain. Brain cells are affected
within seconds of the blockage. That causes symptoms in the parts of the body
controlled by those cells. After the clot dissolves, blood flow returns, and the
symptoms go away.
Sometimes a TIA is caused by a sharp drop in
blood pressure that reduces blood flow to the brain. This is called a
"low-flow" TIA. It is not as common as other types.
Your doctor will
do tests to look at your heart and blood vessels. You may need:
Your doctor will also check to see if something else caused your symptoms.
Your doctor will start you on
medicines to help prevent a stroke. You may need to take several
If tests show that the blood vessels (carotid arteries) in your neck are too narrow, you may
need a procedure to open them up. This can help prevent
blood clots that block blood flow to your brain.