Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is temporary cut off. This can cause symptoms similar to a stroke such as speech problems and numbness in face, arms and legs. Phone 999 immediately if you have symptoms of a TIA.

Symptoms of a TIA

A TIA or ‘mini stroke’ doesn't last as long as a stroke. The effects of a TIA often only last for a few minutes or hours and go (fully resolve) within 24 hours.

The main symptoms of a TIA can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake
  • Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms

Other symptoms may include loss of vision, dizziness, difficulty walking or poor coordination.

When to seek medical advice

In the early stages of a TIA, it's not possible to tell whether you're having a TIA or a full stroke. This is why it is important to phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Even if the symptoms disappear while you're waiting for the ambulance to arrive, an assessment in hospital should still be carried out.

A TIA is a warning that you may be at risk of having a full stroke in the near future. An assessment can help doctors to find the best way to reduce the chances of this happening.

If you think you may have had a TIA previously, but didn't seek medical advice, make an appointment with your GP, as soon as possible. 

Causes of TIAs

During a TIA, one of the blood vessels that supply your brain with oxygen-rich blood becomes blocked.

Certain things can increase your chances of having a TIA, including:

People over 55 years of age are also at a higher risk of having a TIA or stroke.

Treating TIAs

Although the symptoms of a TIA can get better in a few minutes or hours, you'll need treatment. This is to help prevent another TIA or a full stroke happening in the future.

Your treatment will depend on things, such as your age and medical history.

You're likely to be given advice about lifestyle changes you can make. This is to reduce your stroke risk (see below), in addition to being offered medication to treat the underlying cause of your TIA.

Preventing TIAs

A TIA is often a sign that another one may follow and you're at a high risk of having a full, life-threatening stroke in the near future.

There are a number of ways you can lower your risk of having either a TIA or stroke in the future. These include:

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

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