TIA or Mini-stroke

Family Health Diary

You may know someone who has had a TIA (sometimes called a mini stroke). By reading this blog you can be prepared in case it happens to you or someone you love.

TIA stands for transient ischemic attack. Many people call this a ‘mini stroke’. It has the same cause as a stroke and is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel to the brain or eye. Transient means it comes and then goes. This is because a TIA is a brief interruption to the blood flow to part of your brain rather than a permanent blockage. A permanent blockage is called a stroke and usually leads to permanent disability.

The symptoms of a TIA may only last a few minutes but it can be a warning of a major stroke so it’s important to seek medical help. Doctors at the hospital will do tests to see what caused the blockage and can give you medicine and advice to reduce your chance of having a stroke that causes permanent disability.

What are the signs?
Sudden onset of any of the following:

  • Facial weakness (drooping eye or mouth)
  • Arm or leg weakness or loss of movement, usually on one side of body
  • Speech problems: forgetting words, unable to speak clearly
  • Unable to understand what is being said
  • Blindness in one or both eyes
  • Sudden severe headache of unknown cause

What should I do?
The initial symptoms of a TIA or a stroke are identical. About one out of every three people who have a TIA will end up having a stroke. A stroke is most likely within the first two days after a TIA.

  • It is really important to go to hospital straight away.
  • If you are by yourself phone an ambulance. You don’t want to be driving to the hospital and develop a full stroke where you are paralysed and can’t drive (or talk to explain what is happening).
  • If you have soluble aspirin available take one 300mg soluble aspirin tablet as soon as you develop symptoms of a TIA.

At hospital they can do tests to check what caused your TIA. Doctors can prescribe medicine:

  • to dissolve the current blood clot
  • to prevent future blood clots
  • to reduce the cholesterol build up in the blood vessels. Cholesterol build up causes narrowed blood vessels where a clot can get stuck more easily.

Reducing your risk of TIA or stroke:

  • Have regular check-ups with your doctor.
  • Ensure your blood pressure is controlled.
  • Make sure your cholesterol is at recommended levels (this might mean changing  your diet to include more vegetables and less animals fats).
  • Take any blood pressure or cholesterol reducing medicines your doctor suggests – this might save your life.

Most important if you or someone else has symptoms of a TIA – the person must go straight to hospital.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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