By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Symptoms of transient ischemic attack (TIA) are not uniform for all individuals and depend on the area of the brain involved in the attack. The symptoms are identical to those of stroke but caused by a temporary obstruction of blood to the brain and the symptoms, therefore, are not lasting.
Often people simply experience a strange feeling of the body that eventually passes with time. For this reason, some people are not immediately diagnosed as having TIA, but may identify that they have experienced an attack at a later time later when they are made aware of the condition.
Duration of Symptoms
The symptoms of TIA usually begin suddenly and subside within a few minutes to a few hours. In some cases, the symptoms may recur at a later period.
Even if symptoms have improved, it is important that all individuals that are suspected to have experienced a TIA are medically assessed in a hospital setting. This is because TIA is often indicative of high risk of stroke and preventative measures to manage this risk should be taken.
Alertness and Senses
Changes in alertness and the senses are commonly reported symptoms that present in a transient ischemic attack. This may include:
- Memory loss
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Hearing loss
- Vision abnormalities or loss
- Changes in taste
- Altered sense of touch
There are also some changes that may be evident related to the function of the muscles in the body. The may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Inhibited ability to swallow
- Difficulty walking
- Aphasia (trouble speaking)
- Inhibited fine motor movements such as writing
- Incontinence due to lack of bladder and bowel control
- Hemiparesis (paralysis on one side of the body)
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, Time
FAST is an acronym commonly used in public health campaigns to describe common symptoms of stroke, which are very similar to those of a transient ischemic attack. It represents Face, Arms, Speech and Time.
Face refers to lack of control of facial muscles, usually on one side. A lopsided smile or a drooping eye is characteristic of this.
Arms refer to numbness or weakness in one arm that affects coordination and ability to move or lift both arms together.
Speech refers inhibition of normal talking, with slurring of speech common and some people are unable to speak coherently.
Time refers to the urgency of seeking help for the symptoms. Emergency services should be called immediately to investigate the presence of TIA and likelihood of subsequent stroke.
It is important that everyone in the community is aware of common symptoms of TIA and stroke, as the condition needs to be treated in a timely manner to prevent and reduce long-term consequences. Particularly those that have family members or are caring for someone with risk factors of TIA should be familiar with the common signs.
Last Updated: Jun 14, 2015