A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is often referred to as a “mini stroke” and is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. The TIA is temporary, usually lasting only a few minutes, and may serve as a warning of a future stroke. About 1 in 3 people who have a TIA will have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after the TIA. TIAs can be reoccurring.
Seeking medical attention after experiencing a TIA can be critical to preventing a stroke.
Most symptoms of a TIA last less than an hour, but in rare cases can last up to 24 hours. Symptoms are similar to those of early stroke signs and can include sudden onset of:
- Weakness, numbness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
- Slurred speech or difficulty understanding others
- Blindness in one or both eyes
- Vertigo or loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no apparent cause
Risk factors contributing to TIAs include smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and blood clots (embolisms). If a young person experiences a TIA with no clear risk factors, they should be tested by a neurologist to rule out vasculitis, carotid artery dissection and other types of injury.
Seek medical attention immediately if a TIA is suspected to have occurred. Initial assessment of a TIA includes assessing vital signs and conducting tests to determine if cranial nerves are intact, vision is normal, muscles have strength and speaking is normal. Doctors may also conduct a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to check the blood flow and brain tissue to determine the cause of the TIA or brief symptoms of a stroke.
A doctor will assess medical history and risks of cardiovascular disease and evaluate blood chemistry to prescribe medication to prevent blood clots or remove plaques from the arteries. In some cases, a referral to a neurologist for special testing to rule out other conditions is necessary.