Overview and Definition of Transient Ischemic Attack
When blood flow to the brain is temporarily reduced or blocked by a blood clot in the brain, it is known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). It is commonly referred to as a mini-stroke because people, who have this attack, end up having a stroke after a few years. A stroke can cause permanent damage to the brain, but a TIA does not last very long and does not cause permanent damage.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack?
Both TIA and a stroke have similar causes. In both conditions, blood flow in the brain stops for some time. It mainly happens if cholesterol-containing fatty acid increases in size and blocks one of the arteries that supply oxygen to the brain. The symptoms of TIA are;
- Sudden problems with balance or coordination or dizziness can mean the person has TIA
- Sudden changes in vision, loss of vision, or double vision can mean that the person has TIA. Sudden blindness in one or both eyes can also mean the same thing.
- If a person suddenly has trouble speaking, it can be a symptom of TIA. The speech suddenly becomes garbled or slurred in people who have this disease.
- People who have sudden difficulties in understanding others or have confusion in understanding simple statements all of a sudden might mean they have a Transient Ischemic Attack.
- Sudden numbness and paralysis in typically one side of your body may indicate a TIA. You can feel a tingling sensation in your arms or legs or on the total side of your body
When should you see a Doctor?
Call your doctor immediately if you or your loved ones have any of the symptoms mentioned above. Any person getting a TIA may get a stroke within some hours or some days. Therefore, you must seek medical attention as soon as any symptoms appear to avoid the disastrous impact of stroke.
Therefore, if you notice any unusual activities in your vision, speech, or body movements, kindly consult the doctor as soon as possible.
What are the Risk Factors and Complications of Transient Ischemic Attack?
Since the TIA does not last very long, it does not have any severe consequences. It only temporarily stops the blood flow to the brain so there is no chance of getting any brain damage due to TIA. Some risk factors that can increase someone’s probability of having TIA can include :
- People above the age of 55 can have a higher risk of developing this disease.
- Men and older women also have an increased probability
- TIA is often hereditary. If any of your family members has had a stroke, you might be prone to TIA and stroke.
- High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for this disease. If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90, then you are at risk for a Transient Ischemic Attack.
- High cholesterol is another significant risk factor for TIA. Consuming excessive fast foods can increase the amount of cholesterol in your body, increasing the risk of this disease
- Apart from these, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Peripheral artery disease, obesity, Carotid artery disease, and high levels of homocysteine can also be a few prominent risk factors for Transient Ischemic Attacks
How to Prevent Transient Ischemic Attack?
Your lifestyle choice can greatly impact the prevention of a Transient Ischemic Attack.
- Cigarette smoking increases your chance of developing a blood clot.
- The underlying reason for TIA is a fatty plaque that blocks the arteries supplying blood to the brain. So, stop eating excessive fast food with trans-fat and saturated fat so that your cholesterol levels are not high.
- Regularly exercise to keep your high blood pressure in check. If you manage to be physically active, even for 30 minutes a day, it can act against TIA
- Don’t use illicit drugs and do not have excessive amounts of alcohol. These substances can increase your chance of developing a TIA.
- Eat a lot of vegetables and fruits.
- Maintain a healthy weight because overweight people are likely to suffer from this disease
What are the Treatment Options for Transient Ischemic Attack?
After the required physical tests and examinations, TIA has many treatment options.
- Anti-platelet drug: The first choice of treatment includes an anti-platelet drug. The most commonly used medication is Aspirin. Clopidogrel, the anti-platelet drug, is an alternative to aspirin. Clopidogrel and aspirin could be prescribed, to be taken together for about a 30 days after the TIA. Your doctor may prescribe ticagrelor and aspirin for one month alternatively to decrease your risk of recurrent stroke. Aggrenox, a combination of low-dose aspirin and dipyridamole anti-platelet drug, may also be used to reduce blood clotting.
- Anticoagulants: Anticoagulants include warfarin and heparin. They affect clotting-system proteins instead of platelet function. Heparin is used for a short time and is rarely used in the management of TIAs.
- Carotid endarterectomy: Your doctor may recommend a carotid endarterectomy, if a moderately or severely narrowed neck (carotid) artery occurs. This preventive surgical procedure clears carotid arteries of fatty deposits (atherosclerotic plaques) before another TIA or stroke can occur. In selected cases, carotid angioplasty, or stenting is an option.
As described, a TIA is not as dangerous as a stroke, but it must be considered a warning sign . It is most likely that you will suffer from a stroke which will be life-threatening. Therefore, make some thoughtful lifestyle changes and immediate medical care is imperative .
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does a doctor diagnose a Transient Ischemic Attack?
Your provider will perform a physical exam and a neurological exam. The provider will test your vision, eye movements, speech and language, strength, reflexes, and sensory system. Your provider may use a stethoscope to listen to the carotid artery in your neck. A whooshing sound (bruit) may indicate atherosclerosis. Or your provider may use an ophthalmoscope to look for cholesterol fragments or platelet fragments (emboli) in the tiny blood vessels of the retina at the back of the eye.
Your provider may check for risk factors of a stroke, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and in some cases high levels of the amino acid homocysteine.
Arteriography, Carotid ultrasonography, Computerized tomography angiography scanning, Magnetic resonance imaging, Magnetic resonance angiography, Computerized tomography, and Echocardiography are some tests that a doctor can choose to perform to diagnose TIA.
Is there any other way to treat TIA except surgery and medication?
Ans: Angioplasty is an option to treat TIA, and in some cases, doctors recommend it. In this option, a balloon-like device is used to open the clogged artery, and then a small stent is inserted there to keep that artery open.
Will I not have TIA if I stop smoking?
Ans: It is not guaranteed because smoking is not the only reason. But, if you stop smoking, then it certainly reduces your chance of having this disease.