Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

What is transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a stroke that lasts only a few minutes. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted.

TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to those of stroke but do not last as long. Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may persist for up to 24 hours. Symptoms can include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty with walking, dizziness
  • Confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech
  • Loss of balance and coordination

Because there is no way to tell whether symptoms are from a TIA or an acute stroke, you should assume that all stroke-like symptoms signal an emergency and should not wait to see if they go away.

A prompt evaluation (within 60 minutes) is necessary to identify the cause of the TIA and determine appropriate therapy. Depending on your medical history and the results of a medical examination, the doctor may recommend drug therapy or surgery to reduce the risk of stroke in people who have had a TIA.

The use of antiplatelet agents, particularly aspirin, is a standard treatment for people at risk for stroke. Individuals with atrial fibrillation (irregular beating of the heart) may be prescribed anticoagulants.

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 sometime 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
  • 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 smoking and alcohol cessation programs can also reduce these factors.

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Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about TIAs and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with TIAs at Clinicaltrials.gov.

Where can I find more information about transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

American Heart Association
Phone: 800-242-8721 or 214-373-6300

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Phone: 301-592-8573, 240-629-3255 or 800-575-9355

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