Difference Between Stroke and TIA

Main Difference – Stroke vs TIA

Stroke and TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) are two medical conditions which can happen to any of us at any time due to a cut-down of blood supply to the brain. These two terms are often used interchangeably by many people because both are caused by disruption of cerebral blood flow. However, stroke is a severe and life-threatening condition whereas TIA is a type of mini-stroke which does not cause permanent damage or injury. This is the main difference between stroke and TIA. 

This article covers,

1. What is a Stroke?
     – Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Rehabilitation

2. What is a TIA?
     – Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

3. What is the difference between Stroke and TIA?Difference Between Stroke and TIA - Stroke vs TIA Comparison Summary

What is a Stroke

Stroke is a serious and life-threatening medical condition which occurs due to reduced perfusion in the brain. Brain cells need a continuous and effective blood supply to carry out their function in an optimum manner. If the supply of oxygen and nutrients via blood get depleted due to some reason, brain cells gradually start dying, which lead to permanent disability or possible death. Most of the affected individuals will experience complete or partial impairment of cognitive functions, memory, muscle movements, and speech.

There are two major causes for a stroke to occur.

Ischemic: Occlusion of the blood supply to the brain due to a blood clot (thrombus) lodged inside an artery supplying the brain. This is known to be responsible for about 85% of the diagnosed cases of stroke.

Hemorrhagic: This usually occurs as a result of a burst taking place in an artery which supplies blood to the brain. Blood, which will be released out, as a result, will enter the brain tissue, resulting in a functional

Weakened, damaged or injured blood vessels can end up giving rise to hemorrhagic strokes.

Read about Difference Between Haemostasis and Thrombosis

Who are at Risk?

Elderly people are at a higher risk of getting strokes due to the weakened structure of blood vessels as well as other comorbidities such as Diabetes, Hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.   

Individuals of South Asian, African and Caribbean origin are also at a higher risk of getting strokes due to their inherent susceptibility of getting hypertension at any stage of life.

Additionally, underlying cardiac diseases, cardiac arrhythmias, smoking, alcohol, poor dietary factors, stress, obesity and lack of physical exercises are known to be common risk factors for the development of strokes.

Signs and Symptoms

Patients affected by strokes will indicate a wide range of signs and symptoms depending on the part of the brain affected and its severity. Major factors related to a stroke can be kept in mind using the acronym FAST.

F-face, A-arm, S-speech and T-time

  • Face: Dropping of the face to one side, drooping of the mouth or eye to one side, inability to smile.
  • Arm: Inability to lift the arms or hold them steadily at an elevated position, numbness or weakness in one arm
  • Speech: Slurred or garbled speech despite being awake
  • Time: Seek immediate medical support if any of the above signs and symptoms are noticed, to prevent lifelong disability.

Other possible features include,

  • Complete paralysis of a single side of the body
  • Sudden loss of vision or blurring
  • Confusion, lightheadedness, and dizziness
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • Difficulty swallowing or dysphagia
  • A sudden severe headache
  • Loss of consciousness


The signs and symptoms themselves can give an idea about a rough diagnosis and  investigations such as capillary blood sugar levels, blood pressure, ECG can be helpful in finding the underlying causes.

Furthermore, brain scans, CT and MRI will be helpful in establishing the diagnosis.

Tests like Swallow tests and carotid ultrasound scanning will also be important in finding out the extent of the disability followed by the stroke.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Major interventions following a stroke depend on the type, severity, its etiology and part of the brain affected.

In most of the individuals, strokes are treated with pharmacological interventions including medicines which prevent and remove blood clots (anticoagulants), lower blood pressure (ACE inhibitors) and lower cholesterol levels (Statins).

A minority of people might need surgery if the etiology includes an obstructive blood clot of a larger size, in case there is a severe brain swelling or if there is a necessity of reducing the risk of further bleeding in hemorrhagic strokes.

About 1 in every 4 people who undergoes a stroke will die and ones who survive will often end up having long-term issues due to the irreversible damage to the brain tissues.

Most of the time, it is important to provide multidisciplinary care associated with a proper rehabilitation schedule before releasing them to their former independent lifestyle.

A team of specialists in several fields including physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and specialized nurses and doctors will work on each patient in order to improve their quality of life.

Difference Between Stroke and TIA

Hemorrhagic Stroke

What is a TIA

TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) is a type of mini-stroke which takes place due to a temporary blockage in the blood vessels, supplying the brain. Most TIAs last from 30-60 minutes; severe ones will, however, recover within 24 hours without any irreversible damage to the brain or disability.

Signs and Symptoms 

  • Facial and limb numbness especially down one side of the body.
  • Confusion
  • Impaired speech and understanding
  • Impaired or blurred vision
  • Loss of balance or coordination, trouble maintaining the gait
  • Severe unexplained headache
  • Loss of consciousness

Patients who are affected by TIA has a higher risk of getting a stroke somewhere during the life.

The method of diagnosis and treatment will be similar to stroke management, and the main vision of interventions include the prevention of recurrences and potential risk of strokes.Main Difference - Stroke vs TIA

Difference Between Stroke and TIA

Both Stroke and TIA are caused by the disruption of cerebral blood flow – a blood clot gets lodged in a blood vessel, cutting down the perfusion of the brain.


The most prominent difference between these two types of medical conditions is that TIA is a mini-stroke which subdues without giving rise to any long-lasting disabilities, whereas stroke can result in multiple complications which include death.


In terms of treatment, both these conditions will be addressed with the same interventions depending on the etiology; stroke patients will be focused more on the rehabilitation and reduction of mortality whereas TIA patients will be targeted more at preventing recurrences and reducing the incidence of possible stroke attacks.

Image Courtesy:

“Stroke hemorrhagic” By National Heart Lung and Blood Insitute (NIH) – National Heart Lung and Blood Insitute (NIH) (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

“Blausen 0836 Stroke” By Blausen Medical Communications, Inc. – Donated via OTRS, see ticket for details (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music