The symptoms of a transient ischemic attack include weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, and they usually affect one side of the body, notes Mayo Clinic. Additional symptoms include slurred speech, difficulty understanding others, blindness in one or both eyes and dizziness or loss of balance.
People can experience more than one TIA, and symptoms may vary depending on which part of the brain is affected, explains Mayo Clinic. Episodes usually last only few minutes, and symptoms normally disappear within an hour. Regardless of severity, a person who suspects that she has had an attack should seek medical attention.
A TIA is often referred to as a mini-stroke, and it occurs when a blood clot or some other blockage reduces or blocks blood flow to the brain, notes WebMD. Attacks do not last long, blood flow returns to normal within a short time and symptoms disappear. This is in contrast to a stroke, in which blood flow remains blocked and permanent damage occurs to the brain. Although a TIA is usually short-lived, it is a warning sign of a likely future stroke.
Medical tests that help determine the cause of a transient ischemic attack include a physical exam, carotid ultrasonography, computerized tomography angiography, magnetic resonance angiography and arteriography, according to Mayo Clinic. These tests examine the blood supply to the brain and detect narrowing and occlusion of the arteries. Computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging help find damage caused by a stroke, and an echocardiogram looks for clots in the heart.
Treatment for a TIA generally involves early testing and focusing on preventing another TIA, according to WebMD. The treating physicians may recommend medications, such as aspirin, clopidogrel, dipyridamole with aspirin, and warfarin. Prevention methods include lowering blood pressure, changing diet and controlling diabetes. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to reopen narrow arteries.
The risk factors for a transient ischemic attack include hypertension, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol levels, excessive alcohol consumption, being overweight and physical inactivity, notes WebMD. Other risk factors include a family history of transient ischemic attacks, advanced age, a previous history of the condition and sickle cell disease.