What is a TIA

older couple meeting with a doctor

TIAs are sometimes called “mini-strokes,” because their symptoms last only for a few minutes up to 24 hours before disappearing . But “warning stroke” is a better label, because a TIA often foreshadows a full-blown stroke and needs to be taken seriously.

TIAs are caused by a clot or blockage in the brain. The blockage is short term. The clot usually dissolves on its own or gets dislodged, and symptoms usually last for a short time.

  • The statistics tell part of the story:
  • A TIA happens before about 12 percent of all strokes.
  • In one study, about 12 percent of people who suffer a TIA die within one year .

The risk of having a full-blown stroke is highest in the 90 days following a TIA. About 9 to 17 percent of patients who have a TIA have a stroke within 90 days. If you’re worried that you’re having a transient ischemic attack or TIA, get medical help right away. If you think you might’ve had one in the past, do your homework and talk with your doctor. TIAs are often followed by more severe strokes.

TIA Risk Factors and Treatments

Anyone can have a TIA  but the risk increases with age. If you’ve previously had a stroke, pay careful attention to the signs of TIA, because they could signal a second stroke in your future.

The risk factors are smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and blood clots called embolisms. Get help immediately if you think you could be having a TIA. Trained medical staff will need to evaluate your condition. Some causes are only visible with hospital equipment. When a TIA occurs in a young person with no clear risk factors, the patient might be sent to a neurologist for testing to rule out vasculitis, carotid artery dissection and other types of injury or infection.

Why is a TIA an Emergency?

If you think you’re having a transient ischemic attack, also called a TIA or a  warning stroke, your symptoms may resolve quickly. But it is not safe to assume you don’t need urgent medical care. In fact, you should call 911 right away.

The warning signs for a TIA are the same as a stroke and sudden onset of the following:

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis on one side of your body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Blindness in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache with no apparent cause

Educate yourself on the warning signs of stroke — and do it F.A.S.T.

F – Face drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech slurred

T – Time to call 911

A TIA can signal a future stroke. Take the warning seriously and don’t delay.