A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a ministroke or warning stroke, causes symptoms the same as those of a stroke. In fact, what is often called a TIA is in fact a small stroke in which the symptoms have resolved or are not overtly noticeable. The difference is that TIAs don’t cause permanent brain damage, and they usually last less than one hour but can last up to 24 hours. Approximately one-third of people will suffer a stroke in the year following a TIA.
TIAs happen when a blood clot or artery spasm suddenly blocks or closes off an artery briefly. This stops blood from reaching a part of the brain for a short period of time. Different parts of the brain do different things, so TIA symptoms depend on what part of the brain is affected. For example, a person can have weakness in his or her arm without the real problem being in the arm. The problem can be a lack of blood flow to the part of the brain that is responsible for arm strength.
Symptoms are similar to stroke—here’s what to watch for:
• Sudden numbness in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion
• Sudden trouble seeing, talking or understanding
• Sudden trouble with balance or walking
• Sudden dizziness or loss of coordination
• Sudden severe headache you can’t explain
• Loss of consciousness or seizure
The risk of a TIA, like with ischemic stroke, can be decreased by appropriately treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity and by quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and staying physically active.
“Small changes to your daily habits make a large difference in reducing your risk for stroke. Fresh fruits and vegetables every meal and walking every lunch time are great examples,” says Sarah Devine, ARNP of the Stroke Center clinic. “These lifestyle changes and careful medication compliance have a direct impact on most conditions that increase the risk of TIA or stroke”
If you suspect you are having a TIA, get medical help immediately. Since the symptoms of TIA are the same as a stroke, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible because you may receive a medicine to dissolve the clot that cannot be given more than 3 hours after symptoms start. Recognizing symptoms of a TIA and seeking immediate treatment will reduce the risk of a major stroke.
If you’ve had a TIA, your primary care provider can refer you to our Stroke Center clinic to visit Sarah Devine, our Stroke ARNP for follow-up care to help reduce your risk of stroke. Learn more about Sarah Devine and the outpatient Stroke Center clinic.