What is transient ischemic attack?
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has the same signs and symptoms as a stroke. It is sometimes referred to as a "mini-stroke". However, TIA symptoms usually last less than 1–2 hours (although they may last up to 24 hours). A TIA may occur only once in a person’s lifetime or more often.
At first, it may not be possible to tell whether someone is having a TIA or stroke. All stroke-like symptoms require medical care.
If you think you or someone else is having a TIA or stroke, call 9–1–1 right away. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room. During a stroke, every minute counts.
Symptoms can include the following
- numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech
- trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.
TIAs are often warning signs that a person is at risk for a more serious and debilitating stroke. About one-third of those who have a TIA will have an acute stroke some time in the future.
Many strokes can be prevented by heeding the warning signs of TIAs and treating underlying risk factors.
The most important treatable factors linked to TIAs and stroke are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, carotid artery disease, diabetes, and heavy use of alcohol. Medical help is available to reduce and eliminate these factors. Lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining healthy weight, exercising, and enrolling in alcohol and smoking cessation programs can also reduce these factors.
Is there any treatment?
There is no way to tell whether the symptoms represent a TIA or a more serious stroke. Those experiencing symptoms of a TIA should seek immediate medical attention. A prompt evaluation (within 60 minutes) is necessary to identify the cause of the TIA and determine appropriate therapy.
Medications or surgery may be recommended to those who have had a TIA to reduce the risk of developing a stroke.
Preventive medications include antiplatelet agents, such as aspirin, clopidrogel (Plavix), or aspirin/dipyridamole (Aggrenox®) and anticoagulants, such as coumadin (warfarin®).
Antiplatelet medication tend to be recommended for people whose TIA appears to be due to a atherosclerosis or other problems of the arteries. Coumadin is usually recommend for people whose TIA symptoms appear to be due to heart rhytm disorders, such as atrial fibrillation.
Reference: The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Last updated: May 2, 2016.