Physical exam for a suspected TIA

The diagnosis of transient ischemic attack (TIA) usually is based on your medical history rather than a physical exam, because symptoms usually have gone away by the time you seek medical attention. However, your doctor usually will check your:

  • Face, arms, and legs for symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, or paralysis.
  • Vision for dimness, blurring, double vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes, which is often described as a feeling that a shade is being pulled down over your eyes.
  • Speech for difficulty saying words.
  • Ability to understand words.
  • Balance and the way you walk for any unsteadiness or weakness in your legs.

The doctor also will:

  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Listen for the swishing sound—a bruit (say "broo-E")—of blood flow through an artery in your neck. Abnormal sounds heard in a blood vessel may be a sign that a blood vessel is partially blocked, which may increase your risk for having a TIA or stroke.
  • Check for signs of heart failure, such as swollen neck veins or crackling sounds in your lungs. Heart failure increases your risk of having a TIA or stroke.
  • Listen to your heart for rapid, irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation).
  • Check for decreased pulses in your neck, arms, and legs (signs of blood vessel disease).

Last Updated: November 11, 2009

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