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Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

Mate rehu ohotata iti

A TIA is often called a warning stroke or mini-stroke. It's very serious and you shouldn't ignore it. If it's treated quickly, your risk of having a stroke can be greatly reduced.


A TIA is a medical emergency. Call 111 immediately if you suddenly develop any of the following symptoms or warning signs.

These symptoms usually come on suddenly and last any time from seconds to hours.


Causes of a TIA

Shows an artery with a wall thickened by plaque causing the artery to narrow and block, depriving an area of the brain of blood.A TIA happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is temporarily blocked. In most cases, this is caused by a blood clot that develops because of atherosclerosis.

With a TIA, the blockage is temporary because the clot either dissolves or moves. After this, the blood supply to your brain returns to normal and the signs disappear.

The main risk factors for having a TIA or a stroke are high blood pressure, having narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis) and the heart rhythm problem atrial fibrillation. Doing a cardiovascular risk assessment can show if you have an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Symptoms of a TIA

The symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke. But unlike a stroke, they only last for a few seconds, minutes or hours.

Like a stroke, the signs and symptoms of a TIA usually begin suddenly.

The main symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

Other less common symptoms include:

You may have more than one TIA and the signs and symptoms of each may be similar or different depending on which area of your brain is affected.

It isn't possible to tell the difference between a TIA and a stroke in the early stages so you must seek urgent medical help if you notice any of the signs and symptoms listed above.

If you think you may have previously had a TIA and did not get it checked out, make an appointment to see your general practice team.

Diagnosing a TIA

When you visit your general practice team, they will ask you questions about your symptoms and what happened and they will examine you. You may need further tests.

Tests you might need include:

Treating a TIA

Although the symptoms of a TIA go away in a few minutes or hours, you'll need treatment to help prevent another TIA or a full stroke happening in the future.

Treatment may include medication to stop clots forming (antiplatelet medication), medication to control blood pressure, statin medication to lower cholesterol and blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants) if you have atrial fibrillation.

Preventing TIAs

You cannot control all risk factors, but lifestyle changes can help you lower some risks. This means:

See your general practice team to get checked for other conditions that affect your risk of TIA and stroke such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol and diabetes. If you have any of these conditions, keep them under control.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created September 2022.


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Review key: HITIA-17463