Transient Ischemic Attack

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A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a mini stroke that happens quickly. TIA occurs when there is a temporary stop in the blood flow to a particular part in the brain. It mimics stroke symptoms, albeit, they do not last for a long period of time. A TIA is said to often be warning sign for future strokes if nothing is done to prevent it. The primary difference between a TIA and a stroke is that after a TIA happens, the blockage is only temporary (transient). The blockage will eventually break and dissipate, therefore, there is no cell death among the brain tissue.

Causes of Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

The main risk factor for a transient ischemic attack, not to mention stroke, is high blood pressure. Other major risk factors may include heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and a family history of stroke. All these may increase a person’s likelihood of suffering a TIA. Loss of blood flow to areas in the brain can be due to:

  • A blood clot in one or more arteries of the brain or a blood clot that may transit to the brain from another body part (e.g. heart, legs, etc.)
  • Blood vessel injury
  • Blood vessel narrowing in the brain or going to the brain

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

As previously mentioned, a transient ischemic attack has stroke-like symptoms but the difference lies in the duration. In most cases, most TIA symptoms disappear within an hour of the first symptom, however, symptoms may also last for as long as 24 hours in some cases. The easiest way to remember the sudden signs and symptoms of a TIA or stroke is FAST.

  • F – face drooping (particularly on one side, e.g. uneven smile, unable to raise one eyebrow)
  • A – arm weakness (on one side only)
  • S – speech difficulty (e.g. difficulty understand or speaking – slurred speech)
  • T – time to call for an ambulance

More signs and symptoms of stroke include:

  • Abrupt trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Abrupt lack of coordination or balance, walking and dizziness
  • Abrupt headache with unknown cause
Headache with unknown cause can occur when one is suffering from a transient ischemic attack (TIA)

Headache with unknown cause can occur when one is suffering from a transient ischemic attack (TIA)

First Aid Management for Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

It is often difficult to differentiate whether a person is suffering from a transient ischemic attack or stroke, thus it is necessary to administer first aid immediately. Learn first aid by taking First Aid Classes. Just like a stroke, a TIA is also considered a medical emergency:

  • If the person presents with any of the following signs or symptoms in the previous section, call for local emergency help immediately.
  • Note the time when the symptoms first appeared and tell the emergency personnel the exact time.
  • If the person is conscious, ensure that the person is in a position of greatest comfort. If the person is unconscious and breathing, assist the person to their side in a supported position.
  • Minimize heat loss by covering the patient with a blanket.
  • Monitor the person for any change in consciousness.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) mimics stroke symptoms but only lasts for an hour to 24 hours and is said to be a future warning for a stroke.

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