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Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

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Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary disturbance in brain function resulting from a temporary blockage of the brain's blood supply.

TIA doesn't last very long and leaves no permanent effects, it's far from an insignificant event. About one-third of the people who have a TIA have a stroke in the future. A TIA can serve as both a warning and an opportunity - a warning of an impending stroke and an opportunity to take steps to prevent it.

Signs and symptoms

Transient ischemic attacks usually last for a few minutes. Most symptoms disappear within an hour and all effects disappear within 24 hours. TIA signs and symptoms resemble those found early in a stroke and may include:

  • Sudden weakness, an abnormal feeling, or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, typically on one side of your body

  • Slurred or garbled speech or difficulty understanding others

  • Sudden blindness in part of your visual field, sometimes as if a gray or black curtain is falling over or crossing your visual field

  • Dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination

You may have more than one TIA, and the recurrent signs and symptoms may be similar or different.


The cause of a TIA is a temporary decrease in blood supply to part of your brain. Most attacks last just a few minutes.

A TIA has the same origins as that of an ischemic stroke. In ischemic strokes, which are the most common type of stroke, a clot blocks the blood supply to part of your brain. But in contrast to a stroke, which involves a more prolonged lack of blood supply and causes some permanent damage to your brain tissue, a TIA less commonly leaves lasting effects to your brain. However, damage to your brain tissue may occur even though the symptoms last less than 24 hours, so don't ignore a TIA.

The underlying cause of a TIA often is a buildup of cholesterol-containing fatty deposits called plaques (atherosclerosis) in an artery or one of its branches that supply oxygen and nutrients to your brain. Plaques can decrease the blood flow through an artery or lead to the development of a clot. Other causes include a blood clot moving to the brain from another part of the body, most commonly from the heart.


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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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