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Transient Ischemic Attack

What is a transient ischemic attack?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is also called a mini-stroke. A TIA happens when blood cannot flow to part of your brain. A TIA lasts a short time, and the effects are gone in less than 24 hours. A TIA does not cause lasting damage, but it may be a warning that you are about to have an ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.

What are the signs and symptoms of a TIA?

Any of the following may come and go:

  • Numbness, tingling, weakness, or paralysis

  • Trouble walking, swallowing, talking, or understanding language

  • Blurry or double vision

How is a TIA diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms and when they started. He will ask about any medical conditions you have. The following tests will help him diagnose a TIA:

  • Carotid ultrasound: A carotid ultrasound checks for narrow or blocked carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are blood vessels in your neck that carry blood to your brain. Sound waves show the blood flow in your carotid arteries.

  • CT or MRI scan: Healthcare providers use these pictures to see blood flow blockage in your brain. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have a metal implant.

How is a TIA treated?

You may need medicine to break up blood clots or to prevent them from forming. You may also need medicine to decrease high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. You may need surgery to open a blocked artery (blood vessel).

What increases my risk of a TIA?

  • You are a man.

  • You are African American.

  • You are at least 55 years old.

  • You are a woman and use birth control pills, or you take hormone replacement medicine.

  • Your father or mother had a stroke, or you had a low birthweight.

  • You have high blood pressure, blood vessel disease, or sickle cell anemia that is not being treated.

  • You have atrial fibrillation, diabetes, or another heart condition.

What lifestyle changes can decrease my risk of a TIA or stroke?

  • Manage health conditions: High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol all increase your risk of a TIA or stroke. Take your medicine as directed. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions to check your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Write the numbers down to show him.

  • Eat healthy foods: The foods you eat can help prevent or manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Include food that are high in potassium, such as potatoes and bananas. If you take warfarin, it works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K each day. Vitamin K is found mainly in green leafy vegetables. Ask your healthcare provider for a list of other foods that contain vitamin K.

  • Reach or stay at a healthy weight: Weight loss can decrease your blood pressure and your risk of stroke. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh and how to lose weight safely. Ask how often you should exercise and which exercises to do. You will need to exercise carefully after a stroke so you do not fall.

  • Limit alcohol: Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

  • Do not use street drugs or smoke cigarettes: Your risk of stroke increases if you use drugs such as cocaine, or you smoke cigarettes. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you are having trouble quitting.

What are the risks of a TIA?

Without treatment, you may have a full ischemic stroke. A stroke can cause permanent brain damage and make it hard for you to talk, think, or walk. A stroke can be life-threatening. Report signs of a TIA and get treatment immediately to prevent a stroke.

How can I tell if someone is having a stroke?

Know the F.A.S.T. test to recognize the signs of a stroke:

  • F = Face: Ask the person to smile. Drooping on 1 side of the mouth or face is a sign of a stroke.

  • A = Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. One arm that slowly comes back down or cannot be raised is a sign of a stroke.

  • S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence that you say first. Speech that is slurred or sounds strange is a sign of a stroke.

  • T = Time: Call 911 if you see any of these signs. This is an emergency.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your blood pressure is higher or lower than you were told it should be.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have double vision or vision loss.

  • You are confused and have problems speaking or understanding speech.

  • You have weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face.

  • You have a severe headache or feel dizzy.

  • You are bleeding from your rectum or nose.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.