A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is more commonly known as a transient stroke or mini-stroke. In contrast to its more deadly counterpart, a full-blown ischemic stroke, a TIA generally results in only short-term symptoms. Although in some cases permanent brain damage can result from the onset of a TIA, such debilitating effects are uncommon. A TIA can, in fact, serve as a very effective early warning device. It is estimated that up to one third of those persons experiencing a mini-stroke will go on to have a full ischemic stroke, often within ninety days.
Mini-strokes take place when a major artery is temporarily clogged by a blood clot. This clot prevents the brain from receiving the blood flow and oxygen it requires for proper functioning. The duration of the symptoms felt during a TIA are generally one to five minutes in length, although symptoms of lessening degree can sometimes be experienced as long as 24 hours after the initial attack.
The symptoms of a transient ischemic attack are very similar to those of a debilitating ischemic stroke. The only differences are the length of the attack and a greatly reduced risk of permanent brain damage and long-term disability. The onset of symptoms will be sudden and unexpected and may begin with numbness in the face and extremities, particularly the arms and legs. Typically, all of the symptoms will be felt on only one side of the body.
A person in the throes of a mini-stroke may seem confused, and have trouble both articulating and understanding words. Another common symptom is dizziness, vertigo, or great difficulty in walking. Sometimes the afflicted individual will have impaired sight, usually blurry or double vision in one or both eyes. The onset of a severe and painful headache, when there has been no history of such things in the past, can also be a telltale sign of a mini-stroke.
When symptoms of a mini-stroke take place, it is crucial that medical help be sought immediately. It is impossible for an untrained person to know if the affected individual is experiencing a TIA or a full ischemic stroke. These mini-strokes can often mimic the symptoms of other conditions, and only a qualified physician can make a proper diagnosis. Seeking the closest emergency room is critical in these situations. Medical knowledge has advanced to the degree that, even in the event of an ischemic stroke, long-term brain damage can be minimized if certain medications are administered within three hours of the attack.