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Transient ischemic attack-

Updated on November 9, 2012

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are vascular events with stroke like symptoms. A person will have a stroke like symptoms for up to 24 hours but in most cases for 1-2 hours. They are also called mini strokes. TIAs don’t cause permanent brain damage but they are a serious warning sign of stroke in future. Therefore, they should not be ignored.

Up to 40% of all people who had TIA will have an actual attack. It has been found that within 2 days after a TIA, 5% of persons will have a stroke and within 3 months after a TIA, 10%-15% will have a stroke.

Causes- When a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked for a short time, the blood flow to the area slows down or stops. The lack of blood in the brain leads to temporary symptoms of TIA. TIAs are caused as follows –

  • By low blood flow to the brain by a narrow part of a major blood vessel such as carotid artery.
  • By a blood clot in another part of the body breaks off and travels to the brain to block a blood vessel temporarily.
  • By narrowing of the smaller blood vessels in the brain, blood flow is stopped for a short period of time.

Symptoms of TIA- The symptoms of TIA resemble those of a stroke. Some of the common symptoms are as follows –

· Sudden confusion, difficulty in speaking or understanding

· Sudden difficulty in seeing in one or both eyes

· Sudden weakness of face, arm, leg especially on one side of the body

· Sudden difficulty in walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination

If you have any of these symptoms even for a short period, ask someone to take you to a hospital immediately.

Management of TIA- Treatment will be more successful if given quickly. The goal of TIA treatment is to prevent future stroke. The treatment will depend upon the exact cause of the TIA.

If TIA is caused by a blockage in a major artery like carotid artery, surgery may be required to remove the blockage of the artery to prevent stroke. These procedures are called endarterectomy and stenting.

There are drugs which help prevent clot formation, reducing the risk of full blown stroke.

In addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease must be managed efficiently. Smokers must quit smoking.

Though TIAs last for a short period of time, they should be taken seriously because of a risk of a future stroke.

A study published online in September 13, 2012 in Stroke shows that a substantial portion of the patients with TIA or minor stroke become disabled after the event. The study further indicated that patients with blocked or narrowed blood vessels were at the highest risks of disability. These patients need to be seen quickly and have a brain and blood vessels imaging quickly to decide what interventions are needed to prevent the disability.

The study found that 15% of patients, who participated in the study, were disabled at 90 days and a recurrent event increased the risk of disability. The predictors of disability after TIA and minor stroke include ongoing symptoms, positive CT/CTA imaging, female sex and diabetes mellitus.

It has also been observed that in recent years stroke and TIA have been occurring in younger people. The main reasons responsible for this trend are obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity.

The bottom line is that any TIA must be taken seriously and prompt medical intervention be instituted to prevent any disability.


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