Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary dysfunction of the brain due to a shortage of blood and oxygen. A TIA lasts no longer than 24 hours. It is sometimes referred to as a mini-stroke.
TIA is a serious condition. It serves as a warning for a potential stroke.
Blood and oxygen are carried to the brain through major blood vessels in the neck. The blood then passes through a series of blood vessels in the brain. A TIA occurs when the blood flow through the neck or brain vessels is reduced. The blood flow may be reduced by a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels.
Narrowing of the blood vessels may occur with:
Blood vessels can also become blocked or obstructed by a clot or clump that is floating in the blood. This may be caused by:
Certain chronic medical conditions can affect the health of your blood vessels. These conditions may increase your chances of TIA:
TIAs are more common in men than women in younger age groups. They are also more common in people age 45 years or older, with the highest risk between ages 60-80 years. Other factors that increase your chance for TIA include:
TIA symptoms occur abruptly. They usually last less than an hour, but they may persist for up to 24 hours. The symptoms are different depending on the part of the brain that is affected. TIA symptoms are similar to those of a stroke and need immediate medical attention.
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will carefully assess your blood pressure and nervous system. The main goal of tests or questions will be to determine your stroke risk.
Tests may include:
A TIA places you at greater risk for having a stroke. The risk is actually highest in the first week after your TIA. Therefore, rapid treatment aims to decrease your risk of stroke. This can be done with lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.
If you smoke, you will have to quit. Talk with your doctor about the smoking cessation programs.
The doctor may also prescribe medications to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. This will help lower these risk factors.
To decrease the risk of clot formation your doctor may recommend antiplatelet agents such as aspirin.
If the blood clot was the result of atrial fibrillation, anticoagulants may be prescribed.
If you have at least a 70% blockage in your carotid artery (in your neck), doctors may recommend:
These procedures have risks associated with them. Talk wth your doctor about your options.
To reduce your chance of TIA or stroke:
American Heart Association
National Stroke Association
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart & Stroke Foundation
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Last reviewed May 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.