What is a TIA?
A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is an event, sometimes called a mini-stroke, with stroke symptoms that last less than 24 hours before disappearing. While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign of stroke and should not be ignored!
Up to 40 percent of all people who have experienced a TIA will go on to have an actual stroke. Most studies show that nearly half of all strokes occur within the first two days after a TIA. In fact:
Within two days after a TIA, five percent of people will have a stroke.
Within three months after a TIA, ten to fifteen percent of people will have a stroke.
What are the Symptoms of a TIA?
The symptoms of a TIA and stroke are basically the same. Someone having a TIA or stroke may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
If you have any of these symptoms or see them in someone else, even for a short time, call 911 or have someone take you to the hospital immediately. Treatment can be more helpful if given quickly. Stroke strikes FAST. You should too!
What Causes a TIA?
Blood vessels carry blood throughout the body. When a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked for a short period of time, the blood flow to that area of the brain slows or stops. This lack of blood (and oxygen) often leads to temporary symptoms such as slurred speech or blurry vision.
TIAs are usually caused by one of three things:
- Low blood flow at a narrow part of a major artery carrying blood to the brain, such as the carotid artery
- A blood clot in another part of the body (such as the heart) breaks off, travels to the brain, and blocks a blood vessel in the brain
- Narrowing of the smaller blood vessels in the brain, blocking blood flow for a short period of time; usually caused by plaque (a fatty substance) build up
How Can a TIA Be Managed?
The goal of TIA management is to prevent a future stroke. The medicine and therapy used depends on the exact cause of the TIA. In addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease. These changes may reduce your risk of further TIA or stroke.
There are many medicines that help prevent blood clots from forming, reducing the risk of full-blown stroke.
If a TIA is caused by blockage in the main artery in the neck that supplies blood to the brain, called the carotid artery, surgeries may be required to open the artery and prevent a stroke. These procedures are known as endarterectomy and stenting.
Talk to a doctor about the best stroke prevention options for you. Then take responsibility and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. The lifestyle adjustments -- such as eating healthy foods and quitting smoking -- made today may reduce the risk of stroke tomorrow.