A transient ischemic attack, usually known by its acronym TIA, is a temporary loss of brain function caused by low blood flow to a portion of the brain. The lack of blood flow is due to a blockage in an artery that serves the brain, usually caused by a blood clot that has traveled from another site.
The symptoms caused by a TIA can be similar to those of a stroke, but usually last less than half an hour. The problems caused will depend on the vessel or artery that is blocked. Some of the more common symptoms include:
loss of vision or hearing
weakness in the face and arms
paralysis or loss of sensation in one or more limbs
problems with speech or word recognition
This type of episode can be a warning that the person is at risk for a stroke. So someone who is having or has had a TIA should go to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible. The patient will usually be scheduled for a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the brain, cerebral angiography, or other tests, to determine how high the risk is.
Once someone has had a TIA, the aim is to prevent another such episode or a stroke. If you have had a TIA you will usually be prescribed antiplatelet agents, which reduce the bloodís ability to clot. Aspirin is one such agent, but there are others available as well.
Many of the treatment measures recommended for people with coronary artery disease are also effective at reducing the risk of TIA and stroke. Your physician may ask that you :
You may also be required to take medications to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
Some people who have had a TIA must have a surgical procedure called an endarterectomy. In this operation, atherosclerotic deposits are removed from the patientís neck artery to improve blood flow to the brain.
If you have had a TIA, carefully following your doctorís instructions can help you to remain active and healthy.