TIA

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A brief stroke-like attack that, despite resolving within minutes to hours, still requires immediate medical attention to distinguish from an actual stroke. More than 200,000 US cases per year

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What is TIA?

When blood flow to part of the brain stops for a short period of time, also called transient ischemic attack (TIA), it can mimic stroke-like symptoms. These symptoms appear and last less than 24 hours before disappearing. While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future and should not be ignored.

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Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

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 TIA is felt to be a warning sign that a true stroke may happen in the future if something is not done to prevent it.

Causes

A TIA is different than a stroke. After a TIA, the blockage breaks up quickly and dissolves. A TIA does not cause brain tissue to die.

The loss of blood flow to an area of the brain can be caused by:

  • A blood clot in an artery of the brain
  • A blood clot that travels to the brain from somewhere else in the body (for example, from the heart)
  • An injury to blood vessels
  • Narrowing of a blood vessel in the brain or leading to the brain

High blood pressure is the main risk for TIAs and stroke. Other major risk factors are:

  • Irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Increasing age, especially after age 55
  • Ethnicity (African Americans are more likely to die of stroke)
  • Smoking

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

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:

  • Change in alertness (including sleepiness or unconsciousness)
  • Changes in the senses (such as hearing, vision, taste, and touch)
  • Mental changes (such as confusion, memory loss, difficulty writing or reading, trouble speaking or understanding others)
  • Muscle problems (such as weakness, trouble swallowing, trouble walking)
  • Dizziness or loss of balance and coordination
  • Lack of control over the bladder or bowels
  • Nerve problems (such as numbness or tingling on one side of the body)

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