Transient ischemic attack

Mini strokeTIALittle stroke

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is when blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a brief period of time. A person will have stroke-like symptoms for up to 24 hours, but in most cases for 1 - 2 hours.
A TIA is felt to be a warning sign that a true stroke may happen in the future if something is not done to prevent it.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A TIA is different than a stroke. After a TIA, the blockage breaks up quickly and dissolves. Unlike a stroke, a TIA does not cause brain tissue to die.
The loss of blood flow to an area of the brain can be caused by:
  • A blood clot in an artery of the brain
  • A blood clot that travels to the brain from somewhere else in the body (for example, from the heart)
  • An injury to blood vessels
  • Narrowing of a blood vessel in the brain or leading to the brain
High blood pressure is the number one risk for TIAs and stroke. The other major risk factors are:
People who have heart disease or poor blood flow in their legs caused by narrowed arteries are also more likely to have a TIA or stroke.


Symptoms begin suddenly, last only a short time (from a few minutes to 1 - 2 hours), and go away completely. They may occur again at a later time.
The symptoms of TIA are the same as the symptoms of a stroke, and include sudden:
  • Abnormal feeling of movement (vertigo) or dizziness
  • Change in alertness (sleepiness, less responsive, unconscious, or in a coma)
  • Changes in feeling, including touch, pain, temperature, pressure, hearing, and taste
  • Confusion or loss of memory
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty writing or reading
  • Drooping of the face
  • Inability to recognize objects or people
  • Lack of control over the bladder or bowels
  • Lack of coordination and balance, clumsiness, or trouble walking
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • Personality, mood, or emotional changes
  • Trouble saying or understanding words
  • Weakness on one side of the body