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Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain caused by a blood clot. While TIAs come and go without causing permanent damage to the brain, about one in three people who have a TIA will eventually have a stroke. Simply stated, a TIA is a warning sign that you’re at significantly increased risk of having a full stroke in the days and weeks following the event.

Our neurosciences team understands the importance of rapid evaluation for people experiencing the symptoms of TIA. If you or a loved one notices the symptoms to TIA, seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. This is an urgent situation. Do not delay care.

Symptoms of TIA

The symptoms of a TIA generally come on suddenly, last for some time, but then go away completely. TIAs have the same initial symptoms as strokes, which can include:

  • Difficulty seeing from one or both eyes
  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words

When a TIA begins, there is no way to tell if a person is having a stroke or a TIA. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, find the nearest emergency room, and seek emergency medical care immediately.

Diagnosing a TIA

To determine the cause of your TIA and to assess your future risk of stroke, your doctor will perform a complete physical and check for stroke risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. You provider may also perform a number of tests and evaluations, which may include:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Echocardiography
  • Blood/lab tests

TIA Treatment Options

Because TIA is a major warning sign that a stroke may be coming, the primary goal for treatment is to prevent another TIA or a full stroke from occurring in the future. Based on your specific situation, your doctor may recommend any combination of these treatment options:

  • Lifestyle changes: Your physician may recommend a different diet or exercise routine as part of your treatment. If you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol, your doctor may recommend stopping.
  • Medications: Many TIA patients receive antiplatelet or anticoagulant medications, which reduce the blood’s ability to clot. In addition, if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, your physician may recommend medication for those conditions.
  • Surgery: If there is blockage in your arteries, your care team may recommend procedures to remove the clots, such as a transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR) or a carotid endarterectomy (CEA).

As part of your recovery, your SSM Health clinical care team will also recommend regular visits to monitor your health.

If you're worried about TIA and stroke, take our stroke risk assessment and then schedule an appointment with your provider to review your results. Our specialized team will help you create a plan to take control of your health and reduce your risk of stroke.

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