Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA) | Everything You Need to Know About Mini-Strokes

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A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called ‘Mini-Stroke’, is caused by a temporary occlusion in the blood vessels that lead to the brain. The only difference between a TIA and a regular stroke is that TIAs are far less damaging, with the effects only lasting for a short while and fully resolving within 24 hours.

Much like a regular ischemic stroke, however, TIAs can damage the parts of the brain deprived of proper blood flow. Which can lead to an onslaught of stroke-symptoms like numbness on one side of the body, facial drooping, speed impediments, visual disturbance, etc.

Learn more about Transient Ischemic Attacks, how to identify them, and what to do when you or a loved one has suffered from a TIA, in the overview provided below:

Identifying Transient Ischemic Attacks

Although TIAs themselves usually only last a couple of minutes (or up to a few hours), the symptoms may linger for as long as 24 hours. And, as mentioned before, the symptoms of a TIA are very similar to the symptoms of a regular ischemic attack, which can include:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body (face, legs, arms, etc.)
  • Speech impediments that make the person unable to talk or understand speech
  • Vertigo or a sudden onslaught of dizziness that impairs movement
  • Visual impairment on or both eyes
  • Loss of balance or coordination

Outside of these symptoms, you can also identify a potential TIA by identifying whether you show signs of any of the known stroke risk factors:

What Causes a Transient Ischemic Attack?

To review, a Transient Ischemic Attack, much like a regular ischemic attack, occurs when a clot blocks the flow of blood to your brain. The only difference is that in a TIA, the blockage is temporary. Now, as for the ‘underlying’ cause of a TIA, that can be attributed to a condition called atherosclerosis—the buildup of plaque in the arteries that causes the passage of blood in the arteries to narrow.

With that in mind, the only thing left to do is to determine what causes either phenomenon to occur. To which, there are multiple answers. Which we’ve broken down into two lists, a list of all the risk factors that can’t be changed, and a list of the risk factors that can be changed:

Risk Factors that Can’t be Changed

  • Genetic History: A history of stroke in the family means that you are at a greater risk of a stroke or TIA yourself.
  • Age: The risk of a stroke also increases as you grow older, especially past age 65.
  • Sex: Men are known to have a higher risk of stroke than women.
  • History of Stroke: If you, yourself, have a history of stroke or TIA, then your potential for another stroke is greater than those who haven’t.
  • Sickle Cell Anemia: A genetic disorder that makes it so that your body naturally produces sickle-shaped blood vessels—which have a higher risk of getting stuck against arterial walls and obstructing the flow of blood.

Risk Factors that Can be Changed

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol Levels
  • High Levels of Homocysteine
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Carotid Artery Disease
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Note, to add to this list of ‘changeable’ risk-factors, there are also several risk factors that are categorized as ‘life choices.’ Amongst which is smoking cigarettes, lack of exercise, abuse of illicit drugs, chronic alcohol drinking, and an unhealthy diet.

When Should You See a Doctor?

If you have any reason to believe that you or someone you know has suffered from a TIA, you should go to the hospital right away. TIAs are commonly a precursor to bigger and more damaging strokes. So, it would be best to get medical advice immediately on what can be done to reduce your risks of a stroke.

During your hospital visit, your doctor should prescribe certain medications, recommend certain surgeries, or even instruct you on healthy life choices that you can make to reduce your risk of a more life-altering stroke.

Final Thoughts: Transient Ischemic Attacks

Although Transient Ischemic Attacks are known to be less harmful than regular Ischemic Strokes, if you identify with any of the risk factors we mentioned above, you should still be aware of the things that can be done to prevent one from ever occurring. To that end, heed our instructions on when to see a doctor should you, or anyone you know, show signs of having experienced a TIA. 

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