A useful acronym for recognizing the symptoms of a transient ischemic attack or stroke is FAST; Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 911, advises the American Stroke Association. Other signs of a stroke include the sudden onset of symptoms such as numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; confusion and difficulty with understanding; trouble seeing; trouble walking or with coordination and balance; and severe headache. Strokes and TIAs are medical emergencies, requiring 911.
A transient ischemic attack is a type of warning stroke, in which the blockage causing the attack dissolves on its own and typically causes no permanent injury to the brain. However, there is no way to know during the attack if it is a TIA or stroke, so patients seek immediate emergency medical care even if the symptoms seem to disappear on their own, warns the ASA. The longer the patient waits for treatment during a stroke, the worse the injury to the brain. Most stroke patients do not have TIAs first, but approximately one-third of patients who have a TIA go on to have a stroke within one year. By obtaining treatment with medication or surgery, TIA patients may prevent a stroke from occurring and avoid the resultant brain damage.