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Transient Ischemic Attack

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Transient Ischemic Attack

(TIA; Mini-Stroke)


Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief problem of the brain. It is due to a shortage of blood and oxygen. TIA is sometimes called a mini-stroke.

TIA is a serious problem. It is a warning of a future stroke.

Blood Supply to the Brain.

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TIA happens when blood flow to the brain is too low. This can be from a narrowing or a blockage. Narrowing may happen with:

  • A build up of plaque, called atherosclerosis
  • Vasculitis—inflammation of the blood vessels

A blockage may happen with:

  • A piece of a blood clot or plaque that has broken off from another site
  • Blood and blood-clotting problems, such as:
    • Severe anemia—too few red blood cells
    • Polycythemia—too many red blood cells
    • Hyperviscosity—thickening of the blood
  • Endocarditis—an infection of the lining of the heart

Risk Factors

TIAs are more common in older adults. Some things that may raise the risk of TIA are:


TIA symptoms happen quickly. The problems a person has depends on the part of the brain that is affected. Symptoms are like those of a stroke.

  • Loss of strength
  • Clumsiness
  • Problems speaking
  • Problems seeing, such as blindness in one eye
  • Numbness or tingling
  • A feeling of spinning when you are still


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests that may be done include:


The effects of TIA do not last. Most people recover in a few minutes. However, a TIA means there is an increased risk of a stroke. The risk is highest in the first week after a TIA. The goal of treatment is to lower the risk of a future stroke. Medical care is needed to make the best plan for prevention. Steps may include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as not smoking, eating a healthful diet, exercising, and limiting alcohol
  • Medicines to prevent blood clots or to slow clotting
  • Surgery to ease blockage in blood vessels
  • Managing health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol


TIA cannot always be prevented. To lower the risk:

  • Manage high blood pressure.
  • Avoid using tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.




  • Duca A, Jagoda A. Transient Ischemic Attacks: Advances in Diagnosis and Management in the Emergency Department. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2016 Nov;34(4):811-835.
  • Risk factors for stroke or transient ischemic attack. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/risk-factors-for-stroke-or-transient-ischemic-attack. Accessed October 5, 2020.
  • Sangha RS, Caprio FZ, et al. Quality of life in patients with TIA and minor ischemic strokes. Neurology. 2015;85(22):1957-1963.
  • Transient ischemic attack information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Transient-Ischemic-Attack-Information-Page. Accessed October 5, 2020.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/transient-ischemic-attack-tia. Accessed October 5, 2020.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.