Learning About Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

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What is a TIA?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) means that the blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked for a short time. A TIA causes the same symptoms as a stroke. But unlike a stroke, a TIA does not cause lasting brain damage. A TIA is a sign that a stroke may happen in the future.

During a TIA, the blood supply to part of the brain is reduced or blocked. This may be caused by a blood clot in a blood vessel. When blood flow is blocked, the brain cells in that area are affected within seconds. This causes symptoms in parts of the body controlled by those brain cells. Symptoms can last for at least a few minutes. When the blood flow returns, the symptoms go away.

What happens after a TIA?

A TIA doesn't cause lasting problems. But it is a serious warning sign of a possible stroke in the future. You can do a lot to lower your chance of having a stroke.

You and your doctor can work together to decide how to lower your risk of stroke. Medicines and a heart-healthy lifestyle can help.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a TIA are the same as symptoms of a stroke. But symptoms of a TIA don't last very long. They may go away in a few minutes.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 or other emergency services right away.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Sudden trouble speaking.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
  • Sudden problems with walking or balance.

Ask your family, friends, and coworkers to learn the signs of a TIA and stroke. They may notice these signs before you do. Make sure they know to call 911 if these signs appear.

How is a TIA treated?

If you've had a TIA, you need to see a doctor right away. After a TIA, you are at risk for a stroke. So you may stay in the hospital. You may have more tests and treatment.

Treatment for TIA is focused on preventing a stroke. A heart-healthy lifestyle and medicine can help. This lifestyle includes eating healthy, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking. You may take medicine to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and manage other health problems. Some people have surgery or a procedure to widen narrowed carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain.

How can you help prevent another TIA and a stroke?

Here are some ways to reduce your risk of having another TIA and a stroke.

  • Work with your doctor to manage other health problems, including atrial fibrillation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
  • Have a heart-healthy lifestyle.
    • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor.
    • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
    • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
    • Be active. Ask your doctor what type and level of activity are safe for you.
    • Eat heart-healthy foods. These include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium and sugar.
    • If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.
  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19, the flu, and pneumonia.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
    Call 911 even if these symptoms go away in a few minutes.
  • You feel like you are having another TIA.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.