If a stroke can be described as a “brain attack,” then a transient ischemic attack (TIA) may be considered a brain skirmish – brief, but still significant. Both require immediate medical attention.
TIAs are minor strokes that occur suddenly, usually last only a few minutes and cause no lasting damage. That doesn’t mean they are harmless. According to the American Heart Association, TIAs are often warning signs: one-third of those who suffer TIAs eventually have a full-scale stroke.
What are the symptoms?
TIAs typically occur when blood flow to the brain is briefly interrupted, usually from a blood clot. Symptoms are similar to those of stroke but are temporary, usually lasting less than 10 minutes but sometimes persisting for up to 24 hours. They include:
Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
Loss or distortion of vision in one or both eyes
Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
Dizziness and loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache
A prompt medical evaluation is necessary to determine whether it is stroke or a TIA. If it is a TIA, your health care provider may recommend lifestyle changes, medication or even surgery to help lower the risk of stroke in the future.
Neurologist Paul Ariagno, MD, of Lakeshore Health Partners-Neurology, cautions that although symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke, don’t wait to see if they go away on their own. “Call 911 immediately,” he says. “Every minute counts. If it is a stroke, any delay in treatment increases the likelihood that the person will suffer permanent disability.”
Preventing TIAs and Stroke
A TIA should be a wake-up call that you’re at risk for a more serious and debilitating stroke, notes Dr. Ariagno. “It’s critical that you heed this warning and take steps to prevent a catastrophic event in the future.”
To reduce your risk of stroke:
Control high blood pressure and cholesterol levels through a combination of diet, exercise and medication, if prescribed by your doctor
Stop smoking and avoid excessive alcohol use
Lose weight if you are overweight
Manage your condition if you have diabetes