Symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack  

The symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) are the same as those of a stroke, but unlike a stroke they only last for a few minutes or hours.

Recognising the signs of a TIA

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.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there, because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake.
  • Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

It's important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms. If you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as an elderly person or someone with diabetes or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.

Other possible symptoms

Symptoms in the FAST test identify most strokes and TIAs, but they can occasionally cause different symptoms that typically appear suddenly (usually over a few seconds).

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • sudden loss or blurring of vision 
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • problems with balance and co-ordination 
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

However, there may be other causes for these symptoms.

Seeking medical advice

In the early stages of a TIA, it's not possible to tell whether you are having a TIA or a full stroke, so it's important to phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you or someone else are showing symptoms.

Even if the symptoms disappear while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, an assessment in a hospital should still be carried out.

A TIA is a warning that you are at risk of having a full stroke in the near future, and an assessment can help doctors determine the best way to reduce the chances of this happening.

If you think you may have had a TIA previously, but the symptoms have since passed and you didn't seek medical advice at the time, you should make an urgent appointment with your GP so they can refer you for a hospital assessment, if appropriate.

Read more about diagnosing TIAs.

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Media last reviewed: 13/03/2014

Next review due: 13/03/2016

Page last reviewed: 15/10/2014

Next review due: 15/10/2016