Should I Worry About a TIA?

Suddenly, you or someone close to you can’t lift an arm or speak clearly. Yet, soon the symptoms pass. What happened? And should you be worried?

The cause might be a TIA, or transient ischemic attack. Also known as a mini-stroke, a TIA causes symptoms similar to a stroke. TIAs happen when a blood clot or artery spasm suddenly blocks an artery briefly. This stops the blood from reaching a part of the brain for a short time.

If you think you are having symptoms of a TIA or stroke, even if they don’t last, get medical help right away.

Think of a TIA as a temporary stroke that will cause no lasting damage. But the effects of a stroke can be serious and permanent. And there’s no way to know in the beginning whether symptoms are from a TIA or a major stroke. If you think you are having symptoms of a TIA or stroke, even if they don’t last, get medical help right away.

Bryan Ludwig, MD, Neurointerventional, Stroke Neurology Chair, Premier Health Neuroscience Institute, talks about TIAs.

Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What is a mini stroke or TIA?

A TIA is a transient ischemic attack which is a fancy term for a lack of blood supply to the brain for a very short amount of time that causes symptoms. But when the blood returns the symptoms go away and there's no permanent injury. A lot of folks define this as symptoms less than 60 minutes although that's very debated amongst our stroke community. The important detail with TIA or mini stroke is that the MRI of the brain which should be part of the work up for someone that's had neurologic symptoms that would be concerning for stroke, the MRI is negative meaning it's normal appearing for someone that's had a mini stroke or TIA. There's no permanent injury.


What are TIA Symptoms?

Symptoms can come on suddenly and last for a few seconds or a few hours. You may have symptoms only once, or they may come and go over several days. If you notice any of these warning signs, don’t wait to see if they will go away:

  • Sudden weakness, numbness, tingling or loss of feeling in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes; double vision
  • Slurred speech, trouble talking or difficulty understanding others when they speak
  • Sudden, unexplained severe headache
  • Dizziness or a feeling of spinning
  • Loss of balance or falling
  • Sudden confusion
  • Blackouts

The Link Between TIAs and StrokesShould I Worry About a TIA - In Content

Consider a TIA a warning stroke that gives you time to keep a permanent stroke from happening. In fact, approximately one-third of those experiencing a TIA will have a stroke in the following year, according to the American Stroke Association. That’s one reason why it’s important to recognize symptoms of a TIA and seek immediate treatment, which will reduce the risk of a major stroke. When you recognize TIA symptoms and get to a hospital quickly, you can find out why a TIA occurred and get treatment that keeps a major stroke from occurring.

Small Steps: Know Your Numbers
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are common risk factors for stroke. If you don’t know your numbers, visit your doctor to find out.