A mini stroke is a general term for a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). This happens when an area of the brain loses its blood supply and thus the part of the body it controls fails to function as well. The stroke occurs during a short interval, lasting no more than 24 hours. More commonly, this attack typically lasts only a few minutes. The mini stroke is in contrast to a full stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), in which the effects are permanent without proper therapy. Whether mini or full, the effects of a stroke can last a lifetime.
The brain requires oxygen to function. Blood carries that oxygen to the brain. The blood flow can be disturbed for several reasons, resulting in a mini stroke or TIA. One of the primary reasons for a TIA is that a blood clot forms in one of the tiny arteries in the brain. This is called Thrombosis and is usually preceded by a narrowing of the blood vessels, similar to that in a cardiac patient. Other causes of a TIA begin in the heart. A clot can be formed in the heart, by blood being caught in the tiny blood vessels. It then breaks free, being released into the blood stream. The clot can travel to any organ, but the brain is the most common destination. Debris can also form and become lodged in the arteries of the brain, causing a TIA. Last, blood vessels can burst in the brain, causing bleeding within the brain tissue.
The warning signs of a TIA are not visible nor noticeable. Most generally, the symptoms are noticed before anything seems amiss. A mini stroke or TIA is a warning sign itself, or a pending stroke, of cerebrovascular accident. Even if the warning signs do not seem serious, the symptoms should be treated quickly.
The symptoms of a stroke and TIA are generally the same, depending on what part of the brain is affected. The main difference between a stroke and a TIA is that the symptoms will resolve themselves in a TIA. Neurologic deficits are most generally noticed first. These symptoms appear suddenly and most generally without warning. These can affect a person's ability to move and are generally one-sided, meaning that only one side of the body is affected. A numbness of weakness of the face, arm or leg is most common. Other signs include a sudden decrease in vision, in one or both eyes, as well as dizziness and trouble walking. A sudden and severe headache that has no other known cause is also a sign of a TIA. Many times, patients will have trouble speaking or become confused. These symptoms can be present alone or be combined with others, and they will come upon a patient suddenly and not over time.
The treatment for TIA is more prevention than cure. A TIA is a major warning sign of an upcoming stroke; therefore, treatment is about preventing a future stroke. Patients are often placed on Aspirin therapy. Aspirins makes the platelets less sticky and prevents clotting. If a patient is already on Aspirin therapy, an anti-platelet drug such as Plavix is prescribed by a physician.
There are no known medications or test that will prevent a TIA. The biggest prevention tool is a lifestyle change. Minimizing the risk factors for a stroke or TIA is most important. Smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all lead to a stroke or TIA. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding these ailments can prevent a TIA. While prevention is key, patients cannot change their genetics. If there is a family history of stroke, it is necessary to carefully monitor symptoms.