What Are the Symptoms of a TIA?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on July 20, 2021

When someone's having a TIA, it looks like a stroke. The big difference is that TIAs often last just a few minutes and the symptoms usually go away in less than 24 hours.

When a TIA strikes, treat it like an emergency and call 911. If it turns out you're having a stroke, every second counts. Getting care right away can make a huge difference in recovery. And if it's a TIA, you still need to get checked out because you may be at risk for a stroke sometime down the road.

The exact symptoms of a TIA depend on which part of your brain it affects. If you have more than one TIA, the symptoms can be different each time.

Just like a stroke, TIA symptoms seem to come out of nowhere. You typically have problems like:

Droopy face. Your eyes or mouth may droop on one side. You may also have trouble smiling.

Speaking problems. Your speech may be slurred, garbled, or hard to understand. It might be difficult to find the right words.

Weak or numb arms. You may have trouble lifting and holding up both arms.

Those are the clearest red flags, but you may also notice:

  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Blindness or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Can't move one whole side of your body
  • Confusion and a hard time understanding others
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Trouble swallowing

If you see someone having symptoms of a TIA, call 911 right away. Even if the symptoms go away in a couple of minutes -- and that's pretty likely with a TIA -- it's still important to get help.

While it may not seem like an emergency, it's fairly common to have a stroke in just a few days of a TIA, so make sure to get checked out.

It may feel silly to show up at the hospital if your symptoms have stopped, but your doctor can help you figure out what happened and what comes next.

The first step is to make sure you're OK and to see if you had a TIA, stroke, or something else that could cause similar symptoms. Your doctor will:

  • Ask you what your symptoms were like
  • Check your vital signs, such as your pulse and temperature
  • Do quick tests to make sure your brain works like it should
  • Listen to the blood flow in different parts of your body

If your doctor suspects a TIA, the next step is to see where the blockage came from so you can get the right care.

You may get several tests, such as:

Arteriography. It's a special type of X-ray to look at the arteries in your brain.

Blood tests. They check for high cholesterol, diabetes, or high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can raise your odds of a blood clot.

Blood pressure test. High blood pressure can raise your chances of getting a stroke or TIA.

Carotid ultrasound. In this test, your doctor checks the arteries in your neck for any blockages.

Echocardiography. It can find blood clots in your heart.

Electrocardiogram. Your doctor uses this exam to check your heart's electrical activity and look for rhythm problems like atrial fibrillation, which can lead to a TIA.

Doctors often use an MRI or a CT scan to see how a stroke affected the brain. That's sometimes not needed after a TIA because it doesn't last long enough to cause any damage. In some cases, CTs and MRIs are useful with a TIA to check blood flow in the arteries of your brain and neck. They can also help your doctor track down the problem if it's not clear from your symptoms which part of your brain was affected during the TIA.

Show Sources


Harvard Medical School: "Don't Be Fooled by TIA Symptoms."

Mayo Clinic: "Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)."

American Heart Association/American Stroke Association: "Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)."

NHS: "Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)."

National Stroke Association: "What Is TIA?" "Warning Signs of Stroke."

Cedars-Sinai: ""Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)."

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