A transient ischemic attack (TIA) shares many similarities with stroke but there are differences. Like a stroke, it occurs when the blood flow to your brain is impeded and causes a part of the brain to stop working. It differs in that, with a TIA, stroke-like symptoms are temporary and there is no damage to the brain.

Symptoms of a TIA

The symptoms of a TIA are sudden and similar to those of a stroke. They include dizziness, confusion, memory loss, muscle weakness, numbness or tingling in your face or limbs on side of your body, loss of balance, double vision or loss of vision, loss of bladder or bowel control, and difficulty speaking or recognizing people you know. You may suddenly experience a severe headache. You may also get tired or even become temporarily unconscious. Symptoms can last for several minutes or up to two hours. According to physicians at the University of Washington Medical Center, most TIAs last less than half an hour.

Causes of a TIA

A TIA may be caused by a blood clot in an artery that leads to the brain or a clot that is formed elsewhere in the body and then travels to the brain. Unlike a stroke, however, the clot dissolves quickly. TIAs can also occur when blood vessels are damaged or from narrowing of any blood vessel in the brain or leading to the brain.

Risk Factors of a TIA

If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, you are at especially high risk of having a TIA. Having diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, or a family history of TIAs also ups your risk. African Americans and anyone over the age of 55 are at higher risk of having a TIA than other populations.

What to Do If You Suspect a TIA

Call 911 immediately. Although your symptoms are likely to disappear before you get medical care, it is important that you get to an emergency room as soon as possible and follow up with your doctor. A medical team can make a diagnosis based on your reported symptoms and your medical history, along with the results of several tests that will be used to rule out a stroke and determine where the problem started.

Potential Complications of a TIA

Having a TIA puts you at high risk of having a full-blown stroke, which could occur within two days or up to a year of having an attack. Getting immediate medical attention now to determine why the TIA occurred, and treating the cause, can help prevent a future stroke.

How to Prevent a TIA

There are many things you can and should do to prevent a stroke. If you smoke, quit. Keep conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol under control by maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough exercise, limiting alcohol, and taking the medication your doctor prescribes.




Cedars-Sinai: Transient Ischemic Attack Web June 2012.http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Stroke-Program/Stroke-Resources/Transient-Ischemic-Attack.aspx

University of Washington Medical Center: Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) Web June 2012. http://uwmedicine.washington.edu/Patient-Care/Our-Services/Medical-Services/Stroke-Center/Pages/ArticleView.aspx?subId=84

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Transient Ischemic Attack Information Page Web June 2012. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tia/tia.htm