A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is often called a mini-stroke because the symptoms are the same but are much shorter in duration and cause no permanent damage, according to Mayo Clinic. Numbness in the face or a limb, often on one side of the body, is a common symptom.
Weakness or paralysis, speech or comprehension difficulties, visual disturbances or blindness, light-headedness and loss of coordination are signs of a TIA in progress, notes Mayo Clinic. The symptoms last only a few minutes and are usually fully resolved within an hour. A TIA is often a warning sign for an impending ischemic stroke, and one-third of all individuals who experience a TIA eventually have a stroke, half within the year immediately following the TIA. Some patients have more than one TIA, with symptoms for each differing based upon which region of the brain is involved.
In a TIA, as in an ischemic stroke, the cause is a clot that is blocking the blood supply to the brain, but in a TIA the blockage is temporary, explains Mayo Clinic. Often the clot is caused by plaque deposits in an artery that restrict the blood flow, oxygen and nutrient supply to a region of the brain. Sometimes a clot migrates from the heart to the brain and causes a TIA. If the neck artery is narrowed, doctors may suggest a preventive surgery called a carotid endarterectomy to clear out fatty deposits in the hope of preventing another TIA or ischemic stroke.