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Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

How to Know if Someone Is at Risk for a Ministroke

By , Caring.com senior editor
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What is a TIA (ministroke)?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) -- also called a "ministroke" -- is a brief episode of stroke symptoms caused by low blood flow in arteries within the brain. Unlike an actual stroke, a TIA doesn't result in permanent brain damage, and the symptoms clear up completely. TIAs used to be defined as stroke symptoms that disappeared in less than 24 hours, but the 24-hour specification is no longer part of the definition. TIA symptoms can last from minutes to hours.

TIAs are strong predictors of future stroke: 4 to 10 percent of people develop a true stroke within 48 hours of a TIA, and many others develop strokes within the following three months. So although it may be tempting to ignore a TIA once the symptoms disappear, the attack should be considered an important warning sign that a full-blown stroke may be on the horizon. Stroke risk after TIA is especially high in people who are older than 60, have diabetes, and/or have blood pressure higher than 140/90.

Fortunately, prompt medical evaluation (within 24 hours) of TIAs usually does lead to treatment that reduces stroke risk. Medical evaluation is also needed to properly identify the cause of stroke-like symptoms, since other conditions, such as migraine and seizure, can also cause them.