A transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stoke involves momentary loss of normal neurological function due to a disruption in the flow of blood to the brain. The only difference between a TIA and a full-blown stroke is that the blood flow in a TIA is restored before the brain tissue actually dies.
If an individual had a TIA, he/she is at increased risk for having a full stroke. With this in mind, if you believe that an individual might have a TIA, it is vital to seek immediate medical care right away.
Symptoms of TIA
The symptoms of TIA are similar to the symptoms of stroke except that the symptoms of TIA tend to go away within minutes or hours. The exact symptoms can vary drastically and depend on which part and how much of the brain is deprived of blood flow. The usual symptoms of TIA include the following:
- Weakness in the arm, hand, leg, face or tongue
- Numbness in the arm, hand, face or tongue
- Inability to speak coherently
- Double vision, partial vision loss or other abrupt visual disturbances
- Unexplained dizziness often accompanied by vertigo
Take note that the symptoms of TIA typically resolve by themselves. Until that moment, the individual is at risk for having a stroke. If an individual experiences any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical care.
Causes of TIA
TIA is triggered by the same disease processes that trigger stroke such as blockage of the arteries to the brain due to embolism or atherosclerosis.
The distinct dissimilarity is that in stroke, the blockage lasts for a longer period which is enough to trigger death of the brain tissues. As for TIA, the obstruction is only transient. With this in mind, a TIA is similar to an unstable angina which is a condition where transient obstructions in the coronary arteries generate chest pain. Since the possibility of stroke is highest in the initial days to weeks after experiencing a TIA, delay in seeking medical care can be deadly.
Treatment of TIA
Since the symptoms of TIA typically resolve, the objective of treatment is to prevent a stroke. After a TIA, the doctor will perform the required testing to determine the cause of the TIA as well as start preventive measures. The identification of the causes of the condition often includes the following tests.
- Imaging of major blood vessels that supply the brain either with CT scan or through catheterization.
- Brain imaging with MRI or CT scan
- Heart testing with echocardiography
The preventive treatment that the doctor starts after the assessment will largely depend on the results. The treatment often includes the following:
- Treating aggressively the risk factors that produce atherosclerosis such as controlling hypertension and diabetes and even cessation of smoking.
- Antiplatelet therapy to prevent the formation of abnormal clots inside the arteries using aspirin.
- Anticoagulation therapy using warfarin
- If there is significant blockage in the carotid artery, the doctor might recommend carotid endarterectomy. Take note that stenting of the carotid artery is not considered safe or effective as surgical repair.