TIA: causes, symptoms of a transient stroke

Transient ischemic attack, better known by the abbreviation TIA. This is a short-term stroke caused by a temporary disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. What are the causes and symptoms? What is the treatment like and what can be said about the prognosis for a TIA?

Article content

  • Transient ischemic attack/TIA
  • Causes of TIA
  • Symptoms of TIA
  • Diagnosis TIA
  • TIA treatment
  • TIA prognosis


Transient ischemic attack/TIA

In a transient ischemic attack or TIA, part of the brain suddenly stops working for a short time. No oxygen reaches this part because the blood supply is blocked. The duration of a TIA is usually a few seconds to a few minutes, but can also last several hours and the symptoms will then disappear completely. If medical help is available and the symptoms are still present, it is called a stroke or CVA (cerebrovascular accident). A TIA is more common in men than in women and in people over forty-five years of age. It is also more common in some families. Risk factors: high blood pressure, smoking, excessive body weight and fatty foods. If no treatment is given, approximately one third of people will later have a stroke or CVA. You must always take action in the event of a TIA!

Causes of TIA

Closure of an artery to the brain can have two reasons:

  1. A blood clot forms in the artery itself.
  2. A blood clot can also come from a larger clot elsewhere in the body and can block an artery in the brain. A clot that causes a TIA usually comes from the heart, carotid arteries or aorta.

A clot often forms in vessels that are narrowed by deposition of fat in the vessel walls: atherosclerosis. People who smoke and people with a high body weight are more likely to develop atherosclerosis (and therefore also more likely to suffer from TIAs). The risk of a TIA is also greater if someone has elevated cholesterol (hereditary or not), high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus. You are more likely to develop a clot in the heart after a heart attack, damage to heart valves, replaced heart valves, and some forms of irregular heartbeat. Such a clot can be carried with the blood and cause blockage of an artery in the brain.

Symptoms of TIA

The symptoms usually develop quickly and last only a short time. The symptoms depend on which part of the brain receives too little oxygen. The symptoms disappear quickly but more TIAs may follow. A person can have a number of attacks in one day. Years may also pass between attacks.

  • Paralysis in the face: for example, the mouth may hang crooked;
  • Vision may be lost in one or both eyes or on one side in both eyes;
  • Someone can see double;
  • Slurring speech or saying strange things (it may seem like someone is drunk);
  • Losing feeling on one side of the body;
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the body (for example, being unable to lift an arm or leg);
  • Loss of balance;
  • Tingling;
  • Experiencing problems finding the right words or pronouncing words (aphasia);
  • No longer being able to understand spoken or written language very well.


Diagnosis TIA

The symptoms that occur with a TIA may be reminiscent of epilepsy, brain tumor, or migraine. The GP will perform a physical examination, blood pressure will be measured, heart rate and neurological functions will be checked. If a TIA is suspected, you will be referred to a neurologist for further examination. It can be checked whether there is diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation. The following examinations can be done: CT scan, MRI of the brain, Doppler ultrasound of the arteries. If the last examination shows that there are narrowings in the carotid arteries, an MR angiogram can then be done to see how bad the narrowings are. If an abnormality of the heart is suspected, echocardiography can be performed.

TIA treatment

If it is a TIA, it is important to reduce the chance of recurrence. Quit smoking, eat less fat, treat diabetes if it occurs. If someone has high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat, medication will be given. Furthermore, medication against blood clotting and often medications that lower cholesterol levels. If the carotid arteries are very narrowed, the blockage can be remedied by surgery. An angioplasty may also be suggested.

TIA prognosis

A person may suffer from TIAs for a long time, with interruptions. But it may also be that someone is no longer bothered by it at all. The more TIAs someone experiences, the greater the chance of a stroke. Making changes in your lifestyle is very important: quitting smoking, eating healthy, staying active, getting enough exercise.

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