Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) - Topic Overview
What is a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
Some people call a transient ischemic attack (TIA) a mini-stroke, because the symptoms are like those of a stroke but do not last long. A TIA happens when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked or reduced, often by a blood clot. After a short time, blood flows again and the symptoms go away. With a stroke, the blood flow stays blocked, and the brain has permanent damage.
A TIA is a warning: It means you are likely to have a stroke in the future. If you think you are having a TIA, call 911. Early treatment can help prevent a stroke. If you think you have had a TIA but your symptoms have gone away, you still need to call your doctor right away.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a TIA come on suddenly.
· One side of your body may feel numb, tingly, or heavy.
· You may not be able to move your arm, your leg, or your face on one side of your body.
· Things may look blurry or dim. You may have double vision or not be able to see.
· It may be hard to speak. You may slur or mix up your words.
· It may be hard to understand words.
· You may feel unsteady, dizzy, or clumsy. You may have trouble walking.
What causes a transient ischemic attack?
A blood clot is the most common cause of a TIA. Blood clots can be the result of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis, heart attack, or abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia). Brain cells are affected within seconds of the blockage. That causes symptoms in the parts of the body controlled by those cells. Once the clot dissolves, blood flow returns, and the symptoms go away.
Sometimes a TIA is caused by a sharp drop in blood pressure that reduces blood flow to the brain. This is called a "low-flow" TIA. It is not as common as other types.
What tests do I need after a TIA?
Your doctor will do tests to look at your heart and blood vessels. You may need:
· Tests that show pictures of your brain and blood vessels, such as a CT scan, MRI, magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), or a cardiac catheterization and coronary angiogram.
· A test that uses sound to check your blood flow (doppler ultrasound).
· An echocardiogram to check your heart's shape and its blood flow.
· An electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) to measure your heart rhythm.
Your doctor will also check to see if something else is causing your symptoms.
How is it treated?
Your doctor will start you on medicines to help prevent a stroke. You may need to take several medicines. If tests show that the blood vessels in your neck are too narrow, you may need surgery to open them up (carotid endarterectomy). This can help prevent blood clots that block blood flow to your brain. Another type of surgery is carotid artery stenting. During this surgery, the doctor puts a small tube called a stent inside your carotid artery. This helps keep the artery open. Carotid artery stenting is not as common as endarterectomy.
You can do a lot to reduce your chance of having another TIA or a stroke. Medicines can help, but you may need to make lifestyle changes too. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
· If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
· Take a daily aspirin or other medicines, if your doctor advises it.
· Take your medicines just as your doctor says to.
· Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and breads, and olive oil.
· Get some exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week.
· Stay at a healthy weight.
· If you smoke, quit. Avoid secondhand smoke too.
· Limit alcohol. Having more than 2 drinks a day raises the risk of stroke.
· Avoid getting sick from the flu. Get a flu shot every year.