Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) - Symptoms 

Symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack  

Medical emergency

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you or someone you know is having a TIA. Dial 999 to request an ambulance.

If the symptoms disappear while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, you (or they) should still go to hospital to have an assessment.

After an initial assessment, it's likely you will be referred to hospital for a more in-depth assessment and, if necessary, to receive treatment.

You can identify the main symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) by remembering the word F.A.S.T. (Face-Arms-Speech-Time).

  • Face – the person's face may have fallen on one side, they may be unable to smile and their mouth or eye may drop
  • Arms – the person may not be able to raise both their arms and keep them raised due to arm weakness or numbness
  • Speech – the person may have slurred speech
  • Time – if any of these signs or symptoms are present, dial 999 immediately

Everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a TIA or stroke. If you live with, or care for, someone 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.

The signs and symptoms in the F.A.S.T. test (above) can help you identify most TIAs and strokes. However, other signs and symptoms may include:

  • sudden loss of vision 
  • dizziness
  • communication problems, such as difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying
  • balance and co-ordination problems 
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • numbness or weakness, resulting in complete paralysis (loss of the ability to move one or more muscles) in one side of the body
  • in severe cases, loss of consciousness

Duration of TIA symptoms

As the name suggests, the symptoms of a TIA are transient (temporary) and should clear up within 24 hours of the attack. The exact duration of symptoms may vary, but they often disappear within one hour.

Different parts of your brain control different parts of your body, so the symptoms that you will have after a TIA will depend on the part of your brain that is affected.

Sometimes, a TIA will occur before a full stroke, which can cause serious and permanent damage. Therefore, the sooner medical attention is sought, the less likely another TIA or a stroke will occur.

Page last reviewed: 03/10/2012

Next review due: 03/10/2014

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