A human brain icon Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)

Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)

Sometimes called a mini Stroke, a TIA has similar symptoms to a Stroke but the person appears to recover very quickly. The medical definition for TIA is:

  • Transient – Symptoms disappear in less than one day (24 hours)
  • Ischaemic – Failure of blood flow to part of the brain or eye
  • Attack – Sudden onset of symptoms which vary from person to person depending on which part of the brain or eye is starved of blood.

What is a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)?

TIA symptoms depend on which blood vessel to the brain is blocked and so which part of the brain is starved of blood. Common symptoms include brief attacks of weakness, clumsiness, numbness or pins and needles of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body, slurring of speech or difficulty in finding words, or blurred vision in one or both eyes. TIAs do not usually cause “blackout” fainting or loss of consciousness.

Is a diagnosis important?

There are several illnesses which may give very similar symptoms to those of a TIA and require different treatments. These include migraine, epileptic fits or a seizure, a low blood sugar level, fainting and changes in the heart rhythm. So it is important that people with any of the TIA symptoms should go to see their doctor to find out whether they have had a TIA or some other kind of attack.

Why is a TIA important?

A person who has had a TIA has an increased risk of having a Stroke. The risk of having a Stroke in the first year after a TIA is about 10% but then falls by about 5% each year.

What treatment is available?

The treatment depends on the results of a careful assessment by the doctor. Anybody who smokes should stop completely. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high sugar levels in the blood can usually be helped by a healthier diet, though drugs are sometimes needed. A doctor may also prescribe aspirin to thin the blood: this reduces the risk of having a Stroke after a TIA. Sometimes TIAs are due to narrowing of a blood vessel in the neck; this can be treated by an operation called a carotid endarterectomy.

© Stroke Recovery Association NSW 2023

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