Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

What is TIA?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a minor stroke that lasts only for a few minutes. It is caused by a temporary blockage of blood supply to part of the brain, and usually leaves little to no permanent damage on the brain. However, known as a “warning stroke”, TIA often foreshadows the occurrence of a full-blown stroke. According to the American Stroke Association, 9 to 17 percent of patients present with a stroke within 90 days of having a TIA [1]. However, with early diagnosis and medical attention, up to 80% of strokes after TIA are preventable [2]. Thus, if you think that you may have experienced a TIA recently or in the past, consult a doctor and seek medical treatment immediately.

Transient Ischemic Attack

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What does having a TIA feel like?

Symptoms of TIA often emulate symptoms of stroke, but disappear within an hour. Common symptoms of TIA include: 

  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis (typically on one side of the body)
  • Slurred or garbled speech
  • Confusion and trouble understanding speech 
  • Blindness or double vision in one or both eyes
  • Vertigo and dizziness
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache with no apparent cause

What are the causes and risk factors of TIA?

As mentioned above, a brief blockage of blood vessels supplying blood to the brain is responsible for a TIA. The possible underlying causes of a TIA are as follows: 

Blood Clots. Blood clots formed elsewhere in your body may travel to blood vessels transporting blood to the brain, disrupting the blood flow to your brain.

Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis refers to the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other fatty substances in artery walls (plaque). Plaques formed in arteries supplying blood to your brain may result in a restriction of blood flow.

Hemorrhage. Hemorrhage, also known as bleeding in the brain, may also trigger a TIA.

What are the risk factors of TIA?

Certain things may increase your chances of having a TIA. Some risk factors include: 

Family history. Individuals with family members who have experienced a TIA or stroke in the past may be predisposed to TIA. 

Age. The risk of TIA increases with age. Individuals especially above the age of 35 are more likely to experience TIA. 

Medical conditions. Medical conditions such as having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and sickle-cell anemia increase the risk of having a TIA. 

Lifestyle choices. Smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption and the illicit use of drugs may also increase your risk of experiencing a TIA. 

Although you may not be able to control all the risk factors of TIA, making simple, healthy lifestyle choices such as having a balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting your alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight can help to significantly reduce your risk of TIA.

How is TIA diagnosed?

A prompt medical examination and assessment is key to diagnosing and treating your TIA. To determine the severity and cause of your TIA, your doctor may conduct one or more of the following: 

Physical examination and neurological tests. Your doctor will conduct a thorough medical examination before definitively diagnosing your TIA. Your doctor may also perform tests to evaluate your vision, speech and reflexes, as well as check for risk factors of TIA. 

Carotid ultrasonography. Your doctor may consider the use of carotid ultrasonography if he suspects that a blockage of your carotid artery, which supplies blood from the heart to the brain, is the cause of your TIA. Carotid ultrasound employs the use of sound waves to produce images of the carotid arteries in the neck. 

Imaging. Your doctor may make use of imaging, such as MRI scans to diagnose your TIA. An MRI scan of the head uses strong magnetic fields, magnetic field gradients, and radio waves to generate images of the brain and other cranial features. This will help the doctor to evaluate arteries in your neck and brain.

How are TIAs treated?

We offer various treatment options for TIA. In selected cases, carotid or intracranial stenting may be considered, whereby a balloon-like device is inserted into a blocked artery to open it. 

Your doctor may also prescribe several medications such as antiplatelet drugs to decrease the likelihood of a stroke occurring after a TIA. Antiplatelet drugs prevent your platelets, a type of blood cell, from sticking together and potentially forming clots. A common example of an antiplatelet drug is aspirin. 

Please request an appointment with our doctors today to find out if these treatment options will be suitable for you.

  1. What is a TIA. (2018, December 28).; American Stroke Association. 
  2. Coutts, S. B. (2017). Diagnosis and Management of Transient Ischemic Attack. CONTINUUM: Lifelong Learning in Neurology, 23(1), 82–92. 
  3. NHS Choices. (2020, Spring 1). Overview – Transient ischaemic attack (TIA). NHS. 
  4. Transient Ischemic Attack. (n.d.). Medlineplus.Gov. Retrieved December 8, 2020, from