The symptoms of a TIA vary depending on which arteries are obstructed. The most common location of blockage is in the carotid artery system. The two carotid arteries supply blood to the two sides of the brain. If one of them is blocked, there may be symptoms in the eye on the side of the blocked arteries, or symptoms affecting the opposite side of the body.
A blockage in the left carotid artery, for example, could cause temporary blindness in the left eye or paralysis of the right side of the face and the right arm and leg, or a loss of speech (inability to speak normally or understand speech).
Instead of complete blindness, many people suffer blurring or dimming of vision like a shade or veil slowly descending across their field of vision (the medical term for this is amaurosis fugax).
Another common location of blockages is the vertebrobasilar system. These strokes and TIAs can sometimes cause symptoms on both sides of the body or in both eyes. The balance control centre of the brain may be affected, causing symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, imbalance, and poor coordination, as well as double vision and slurred speech.
TIAs may come alone or in a series. Some people get several in a year, and a few get them daily. The more TIAs you get, the more likely you are to suffer a full-scale stroke.
The symptoms of TIA are identical to the symptoms of stroke, for the very good reason that a TIA is a stroke. When it happens, there's no way of knowing if the blockage will dissolve quickly (meaning a TIA) or stay in place long enough to cause cell death (meaning a stroke). According to statistics, it's far more likely to be a real stroke. Rush to the hospital (not the doctor's office) immediately - every minute of delay is risky. Even if you are having a TIA, you need immediate treatment, for a large stroke may follow within hours. Never attempt to drive yourself, because there's a major risk of sudden blindness, paralysis, or blackout.