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Transient Ischemic Attack Symptoms & Diagnosis


TIA symptoms occur abruptly. They usually last less than 10 minutes. They may persist for up to 24 hours. The effects differ depending on the location of the blockage. TIA symptoms are similar to those of a stroke. They require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms may include:

  • Blindness in one eye, often described as a window shade dropping, and/or other visual problems
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling of the face, arm, leg, or one side of the body (usually affects one side of the body, but there are exceptions).
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words
  • Dizziness, unsteadiness of gait, or falling
  • Trouble with balance or coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden confusion or loss of memory


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medial history. A physical exam will be done. Particular attention will be paid to your blood pressure and nervous system. A primary goal will be to determine your stroke risk.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests—such as a complete blood count, blood sugar (glucose), cholesterol and other fat levels, clotting factors, and a check of other elements in the blood
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)—to measure heart rhythm (which would be irregular in, for example, atrial fibrillation) and check for other signs of heart disease
  • Doppler ultrasound —a test that uses sound waves to help determine if there is compromised blood flow in the arteries supplying the brain
  • Echocardiogram —another ultrasound test to look for blood clots and valve abnormalities within the heart
  • CT scan of the head —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to create images of structures inside the head; in this case, to look for evidence of bleeding or other damage to the brain
  • MRI scan of the head —a test that uses powerful magnetic radiowaves to create images of structures inside the head; in this case, to look for evidence of bleeding or other damage to the brain
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) —generally performed prior to carotid artery surgery to determine how much the artery has narrowed
  • Arteriogram —a test in which contrast dye is injected into selected arteries and x-ray images are produced to precisely locate the blockage and to determine its extent
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) —a test that can detect the presence of seizures by measuring brain waves (used only if a seizure is suspected)

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Transient Ischemic Attack Guide

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