Transient ischemic attack (TIA): symptoms, treatment, causes

September 13, 2021 by archyde

The transitory ischemic attack is a kind of mini-stroke and is considered an early warning sign of a “real” stroke. Find out which symptoms occur with a TIA, how long they last and when to see a doctor.

Often times, the signs are weaker with a TIA than with one stroke. This often means that those affected do not take the symptoms seriously and do not have them clarified by a doctor. Even doctors do not always recognize a TIA as such immediately. However, this can have serious consequences, because after a TIA the risk of a stroke is very high.

What is a TIA?

TIA is the abbreviation for transient ischemic attack. Experts understand it to be a brief and temporary reduced blood flow to the brain, such as mild neurological deficits Visual disturbances, Speech disorders or causing paralysis.

In contrast to a stroke, however, a TIA passes by itself after a short time and does not leave any lasting damage. For this reason, many refer to the TIA as a “mini-stroke”.

The TIA is considered to be a harbinger of a stroke. It is to be taken just as seriously as a real stroke. Just like a “real” cerebral infarction, it is a medical emergency that must be clarified and treated by a doctor as quickly as possible.

TIA symptoms: Recognize the mini stroke

A transient ischemic attack suddenly leads to (mostly mild) neurological deficits for a short time, very similar to a stroke.

In contrast to a stroke, however, the symptoms of a TIA usually only last a few minutes, in rare cases even a few hours, and then resolve on their own within 24 hours at the latest. There is no permanent damage with a TIA.

The symptoms of a TIA depend on which area of ​​the brain is affected by the insufficient blood flow. Depending on the situation, different symptoms arise with a mini-stroke, such as:

  • Muscle weakness, numbness, discomfort or paralysis in one arm, leg or half of the face
  • Speech disorders, for example in the form of slurred speech
  • Confusion and difficulty understanding what is spoken or read
  • Visual disturbances such as blurred vision or double vision
  • Dizziness or loss of balance

Stroke Harbinger: That is why the TIA should be taken seriously

The transitory ischemic attack or mini-stroke is considered to be a precursor to a stroke for good reason. Because about every fifth stroke has previously had a TIA – and usually relatively shortly before it: about one in five will suffer a stroke within the following 12 months after a TIA. Around one in eight people even have a stroke within a month after a TIA.

When should I see a doctor with a TIA?

The TIA is just as much a medical emergency as a “real” stroke, even if the symptoms pass after a short time. So if there are signs of a TIA, don’t wait long, call an ambulance (112). This is especially true because at first it cannot be said with certainty whether it is not a stroke after all.

If it turns out that a TIA actually caused the symptoms, it may be a shock at first. On the other hand, measures can now be taken to avert an impending stroke.

Causes: How is a TIA created?

A transient ischemic attack occurs when a Blood clots temporarily blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The brain regions lying behind are temporarily no longer supplied with sufficient blood and are also not supplied with oxygen.

The blood clot usually does not form in the brain itself, but in another place in the body. From there it is carried away with the blood and washed into the brain.

Without a sufficient supply of oxygen, the first brain cells die after a short time. This can make itself felt through neurological deficits.

The risk of a TIA increases due to the following factors:

These are the same factors that make a stroke more likely.

Therapy: This is how a TIA is treated

Even if a transitory ischemic attack usually passes on its own after a short time, it should not be taken lightly. The TIA requires professional treatment to reduce the risk of a subsequent stroke. Because many people suffer a “real” stroke a short time after a mini-stroke.

Since it is often unclear at the beginning whether it is a TIA or a stroke, the same treatment is usually given as a stroke.

If examinations show that it is actually a TIA, further treatment usually consists of blood-thinning or anticoagulant medication and lifestyle changes.

In some cases, surgical interventions may also be necessary, for example if the carotid artery is the result of a arteriosclerosis (Hardening of the arteries) is narrowed.

It is also important to eliminate stroke risk factors as much as possible. Above all, this includes reducing (severe) obesity, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol as much as possible.

What the treatment after a TIA looks like in detail depends on individual factors and can differ from case to case.

Treatment with medication

People who have had a transient ischemic attack are usually prescribed medication. These are intended to reduce the risk of another TIA or a stroke and must be taken daily from now on. Most of these are active ingredients that slow blood clotting and thus prevent new blood clots.

The drugs that are used after a TIA usually include active ingredients from the following groups:

  • Antiplatelet drugs, such as acetylsalicylic acid (ASS), Clopidogrel or dipyridamole
  • Anticoagulants (anticoagulants) such as phenprocoumon, warfarin, dabigatran, apixaban or rivaroxaban

If there are also illnesses that are considered risk factors for a TIA or a stroke (such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels), these must also be treated.

Healthy Lifestyle: Changing Unfavorable Habits

Often, unfavorable lifestyle habits have contributed to a transient ischemic attack or the diseases that favor TIA. After a TIA, those affected should not rely on medication alone, but also rethink their previous lifestyle and change something.

Smoking cessation: Those who smoke are twice to four times as likely to have a stroke. Quitting smoking after a TIA can therefore significantly reduce the risk.

Alcohol only in moderation: Drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly can have many health consequences. This also increases the risk of a stroke. Therefore, it is best to drink alcohol only occasionally and in moderation.

Healthy eating: If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, you can lower your risk of stroke. A recommended diet is, for example, the Mediterranean diet, which contains a lot of fruit and vegetables and rather little meat, fat and sugar.

Regular exercise: Sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of stroke. To prevent another TIA or a stroke, you should therefore exercise regularly. Around 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, for example in the form of quick walks, are sufficient for this. Nordic Walking, To go biking or swim.

Reduce excess weight: Very overweight (obesity, from a BMI of 30) increases the risk of a stroke. Even a small amount of weight loss can significantly reduce the risk in such cases.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my