Transient Ischemic Attack

A transient ischemic attack is a serious medical condition and requires immediate medical attention. The acronym F.A.S.T. stands for: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 911. This acronym is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a transient ischemic attack or a stroke.

  • FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is there speech slurred or strange?
  • TIME: If you observe any of these signs, take note of the time the symptoms started and call 911 immediately.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also referred to as a mini-stroke, happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly blocked. Since it doesn’t cause permanent damage, it’s often ignored. But this is a big mistake. TIAs may signal a full-blown stroke ahead. When you first notice symptoms, get help immediately.

Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may last for up to 24 hours. Because you cannot tell if these symptoms are from a TIA or a stroke, you should go to the hospital right away.

Causes of Transient Ischemic Attack

TIAs are caused by a clot or blockage in the brain. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing TIA.

  • People of all ages can be affected but the older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Women have a higher lifetime risk of TIAs than men do.
  • African Americans and non-white Hispanic Americans are at higher risk than any other group in the U.S.
  • Family history of stroke or TIAs
  • Previous personal history of stroke or TIA

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Little to no physical activity
  • Diabetes: when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.
  • Excessive alcohol abuse over many years
  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse
  • Obesity or having a body mass index “BMI” of 30 or greater

Other conditions that contribute to the development of TIA

  • Carotid artery disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: a condition in which your breathing abruptly stops and starts while sleeping.
  • Certain blood disorders (i.e. anemia, hemophilia, blood clots, and blood cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma).

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack

The length of time since first noticing any of the symptoms will be very crucial to note. This length of time can affect your treatment options. Besides the F.A.S.T symptoms, other common symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache

Diagnosis of Transient Ischemic Attack

It’s critical to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms prior to diagnosing a TIA. In order to do so, your doctor may do the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Transient Ischemic Attack

Once your doctor has determined the cause of your transient ischemic attack, the goal of treatment is to correct the abnormality and prevent a stroke. Depending on the cause of your TIA, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce the tendency for blood to clot or may recommend other procedures. Treatment options include:

Medications

  • Anticoagulants “blood-thinners” will help treat, prevent, and reduce blood clots.

Medical and Surgical procedures



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