A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a brief time. A person will have stroke-like symptoms for up to 24 hours. In most cases, the symptoms last for 1 to 2 hours.
A transient ischemic attack is a warning sign that a true stroke may happen in the future if something is not done to prevent it.
Mini stroke; TIA; Little stroke; Cerebrovascular disease - TIA; Carotid artery - TIA
A TIA is different than a stroke. After a TIA, the blockage breaks up quickly and dissolves on its own. A TIA does not cause brain tissue to die.
The loss of blood flow to an area of the brain can be caused by:
High blood pressure is the main risk for TIAs and stroke. Other major risk factors are:
People who have heart disease or poor blood flow in their legs caused by narrowed arteries are also more likely to have a TIA or stroke.
Symptoms begin suddenly, last a short time (from a few minutes to 1 to 2 hours), and go away. They may occur again at a later time.
The symptoms of TIA are the same as the symptoms of a stroke, and include:
If you have had a TIA within the last 48 hours, you will likely be admitted to the hospital so that doctors can search for the cause and monitor you.
High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood disorders will be treated as needed. You will be encouraged to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of further symptoms. Changes include quitting smoking, exercising more, and eating healthier foods.
You may receive blood thinners, such as aspirin, heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), or direct acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) to reduce blood clotting. Some people who have blocked neck arteries may need surgery (carotid endarterectomy). If you have an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), you will be treated to avoid future complications.
TIAs do not cause lasting damage to the brain.
But, TIAs are a warning sign that you may have a true stroke in the coming days or months. Some people who have a TIA will have a stroke within 3 months. Half of these strokes happen during the 48 hours after a TIA. The stroke may occur that same day or at a later time. Some people have only a single TIA, and others have more than one TIA.
You can reduce your chances of a future stroke by following up with your provider to manage your risk factors.
A TIA is a medical emergency. Call 911 or the local emergency number right away. Do not ignore symptoms just because they go away. They may be a warning of a future stroke.
Follow your provider's instructions on how to prevent TIAs and strokes. You will likely be told to make lifestyle changes and take medicines to treat high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Published Date: April 25, 2022
Published By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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