A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a ministroke or warning stroke, causes symptoms similar to those of a stroke. The difference is that TIAs don’t cause permanent brain damage, and they usually last less than one hour. The average TIA lasts about one minute. Approximately one-third of people will suffer a stroke in the year following a TIA.
TIAs happen when a blood clot or artery spasm suddenly blocks or closes off an artery briefly. This stops blood from reaching a part of the brain for a short period of time. Different parts of the brain do different things, so TIA symptoms depend on what part of the brain is affected. For example, a person can have weakness in his or her arm without the real problem being in the arm. The problem can be a lack of blood flow to the part of the brain that is responsible for arm strength.
Here are symptoms to watch for:
Sudden numbness in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden trouble seeing, talking or understanding
Sudden trouble with balance or walking
Sudden dizziness or loss of coordination
Sudden severe headache you can’t explain
If you suspect you are having a TIA, get medical help immediately. Recognizing symptoms of a TIA and seeking immediate treatment will reduce the risk of a major stroke.