Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA, Mini-Stroke)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Understanding Stroke Symptoms, Signs, Treatment

What are the risk factors for transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

The risk factors for TIA or stroke are the same as those for other vascular disease, similar to heart attack (coronary artery disease) or peripheral vascular disease, which causes decreased blood flow to the legs. These risk factors include:

Moreover, any condition that results in stagnant blood flow and or clotting may result in a TIA due to embolization of a blood clot. Such conditions may include atrial fibrillation, large heart attacks, and severe weakness of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) .

What are the symptoms of transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

The intensity and location of the blood limitation to the brain will determine what symptoms will occur as a result of a stroke or TIA. Many people experience confusion, weakness, and lethargy. If the loss of blood supply is in an area supplied by the middle cerebral artery, a classic sign may include weakness or paralysis and numbness of one side of the body. The whole side may be affected, or just one limb. Often there is a facial droop. If the stroke is on the left side of the body where the speech centers are usually located, there may be difficulty understanding words or speaking. Partial vision loss may also be part of the constellation of symptoms.

Strokes involving the vertebral arteries decrease blood supply to the base of the brain and may cause a drop attack (a sudden fall while walking or standing, and then a quick recovery), an unexpected collapse, incoordination, or difficulty walking.

The important distinction between stroke and TIA is resolution of the symptoms. By definition, the symptoms of a TIA must completely resolve. And, while this most often occurs within the first few minutes after symptom onset, it may take up to 24 hours to have complete return to normal function.

A special type of TIA is amaurosis fugax. Transient blindness in one eye occurs because debris from a narrowed carotid artery clogs the artery (ophthalmic artery) that supplies blood to the retina of the eye.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2015

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