A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), also known as a Mini Stroke, is a temporary interruption of blood flow to part of the brain.
Anyone can experience a TIA, but the risk increases with age.
While it may cause symptoms that closely resemble those of a stroke, a transient ischemic attack does not damage the brain cells or cause permanent disability.
With a stroke, the blood flow stays blocked and the brain suffers permanent damage, with a TIA, however, blood flow resumes normally after a short time and the symptoms go away.
A Transient Ischemic Attack cannot be ignored, however. It needs to be taken as an early warning sign that the person is at risk of having a stroke.
- The risk of a full stroke is highest within 48 hours after a TIA, and about one out of three people with a TIA goes on to have a subsequent stroke.
The symptoms of a Transient Ischemic Attack are also similar to those of a stroke and may include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Double vision or sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Although the symptoms usually last only a few minutes, they may continue for as long as 24 hours.
BUT DO NOT WAIT TO CALL 911.
Since the immediate signs and symptoms are identical to that of a full stroke, it’s important to get immediate medical attention.
- A TIA is an important warning sign. It can signal a problem that may lead to disability, further strokes and even death.
Having already had a stroke increases the likelihood of having another one, so take the warning seriously.
Anyone with a history of a stroke should pay particular attention to the signs of TIA and go to the emergency room immediately
At the hospital, various diagnostic tests, such as an MRI or a CT Scan will be run to find the cause of the TIA.
The underlying cause of a Transient Ischemic Attack may call for medication to prevent blood clots.
These causes may include:
- An abnormal heart rhythm (especially atrial fibrillation)
- Heart valve problems, heart failure
- An artery that is partially blocked with plaque (fatty deposits) can reduce blood flow to the brain and cause symptoms
Rare causes of blood clots that can cause a TIA include:
- Clumps of bacteria, tumor cells, or air bubbles that move through the bloodstream.
- Conditions that cause blood cells to stick together. For example, abnormal clotting factors, or abnormally shaped red blood cells, (**as in sickle-cell anemia).
*In sickle-cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.
- A head or neck injury that results in damage to blood vessels in the head or neck.
- A tear in the wall of a blood vessel in the neck.
If necessary, a procedure called a Carotid Endarterectomy may need to be performed to remove fatty deposits from the arteries that supply blood to your brain.
All of us get forgetful during times of stress, so use the F.A.S.T. system to remember the signs of stroke and what to do: