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Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

​TIA or transient ischemic attack often cause similar symptoms to a stroke.

TIAs don't cause brain damage, but many people who have the attacks suffer a stroke in the future.

Unlike a stroke, clogged blood vessels are closed for just a brief amount of time.

The Neurosciences team of Marshfield Clinic treats all diseases and conditions of the brain, spinal chord and the networks of sensory nerve cells called neurons.

What is a Transient Ischemic Attack?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a ministroke or warning stroke, causes symptoms similar to those of a stroke.

The difference is that TIAs don’t cause permanent brain damage, and they usually last less than one hour but can last up to 24 hours. Approximately one-third of people will suffer a stroke in the year following a TIA.

TIAs happen when a blood clot or artery spasm suddenly blocks or closes off an artery briefly. This stops blood from reaching a part of the brain for a short period of time.

Different parts of the brain do different things, so TIA symptoms depend on what part of the brain is affected. For example, a person can have weakness in his or her arm without the real problem being in the arm.

The problem can be a lack of blood flow to the part of the brain that is responsible for arm strength.

Here are symptoms to watch for:

  • Sudden numbness in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

  • Sudden confusion

  • Sudden trouble seeing, talking or understanding

  • Sudden trouble with balance or walking

  • Sudden dizziness or loss of coordination 

  • Sudden severe headache you can’t explain

  • Loss of consciousness or seizure

If you suspect you are having a TIA, get medical help immediately. Recognizing symptoms of a TIA and seeking immediate treatment will reduce the risk of a major stroke.  

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If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

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Stroke Quiz

Find out how much you know about strokes and what causes them.

1. A stroke is caused by a blood clot or blood vessel that breaks. This stops the flow of blood to an area of the brain.
2. All strokes are the same.
3. One symptom of a stroke is a sudden, unexplained tingling or numbness on one side of the body.
4. If you have symptoms of a stroke, you should try to get some rest before calling the doctor.
5. There's no way of predicting if or when someone will have a stroke.
6. Two important ways to reduce your risk for stroke are to lower your blood pressure and to stop smoking.
7. Regular exercise is another way to cut your risk for stroke.
8. Strokes always leave people permanently disabled.