Transient ischaemic attack (TIA or mate rehu ohotata iti) is the same as a stroke, except that the signs last for a short amount of time. TIA is very serious.
A TIA is often called a warning stroke or mini-stroke. It is very serious and shouldn’t be ignored. If treated quickly, the risk of having a stroke can be greatly reduced.
TIA is a medical emergency. Call 111 immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms or warning signs.
These symptoms usually come on suddenly, and lasts from seconds, or minutes to hours. It does not usually last longer than 24 hours.
What causes TIA?
TIA is when blood supply to a part of the brain is temporarily blocked. In most cases, this is caused by a blood clot which develops because of plaque.
Plaque is a buildup of cholesterol-containing fatty deposits in a blood vessel. It can decrease the blood flow through the blood vessel and lead to the development of a clot.
If the blood flow to a blood vessel that supplies your brain or eye is blocked, then the symptoms of TIA occur. The blockage is temporary because the clot either dissolves or moves. After this the blood supply to the brain returns to normal and the signs disappear. Most TIA lasts less than 5 minutes.
You may have more than one TIA, and the signs and symptoms of each may be similar or different depending on which area of the brain is involved.
Image: Stroke Foundation NZ
(Stroke Association, UK, 2014)
Who is at risk of having TIA?
The factors that increase your chances of having a TIA are the same as those that increase your risk of stroke.
Risk factors for TIA & stroke
Check your risk with the Stroke Riskometer app developed by the Auckland University of Technology.
What are the symptoms of a TIA?
The symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke, but unlike a stroke they only last for a few minutes or hours.
Like a stroke, the signs and symptoms of a TIA usually begin suddenly.
The main symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.
- Face – has the face dropped on one side? Is one side of the smile droopy?
- Arms – can both arms be lifted about the head and kept there, or is one arm weak or numb?
- Speech – is speech slurred or garbled?
- Time – lost time is lost brain. Dial 111 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.
Image credit: Stroke Foundation NZ
It is not possible to tell the difference between TIA and stroke in the early stages, so urgent medical help must be sought if any of the signs and symptoms above are noticed.
Even if the symptoms have stopped before help arrives, you should still go to hospital for assessment. TIA is a warning sign that stroke is going to happen in the near future. Getting checked out gives your medical team the chance to determine the best way to lower the risk of this happening.
If you think you may have had a TIA previously and didn't get it checked out, make an appointment to see your doctor urgently. They will assess whether you need to go to hospital for further assessment.
How is a TIA treated?
Although the symptoms of a TIA go away in a few minutes or hours, you will need treatment to help prevent another TIA or a full stroke happening in the future. Your treatment will depend on your individual circumstances, such as your age and medical history. Treatment usually includes medication to reduce the risk of blood clots forming such as:
|Medication to lower your blood pressure (antihypertensives)||
|Medication to lower your cholesterol (statins)||
TIA or ministroke Stroke Foundation NZ
Transient ischaemic attack NHS Choices UK
Transient ischaemic attack – explained Watch, Learn, Live – Interactive Cardiovascular Library – American Heart Association