Tags: mini-stroke | warning | symptoms | TIA | brain

Never Take Chances With Mini-Stroke Symptoms

By    |   Monday, 16 March 2015 07:09 PM

When you hear the term mini-stroke, you might think it’s no big deal, just a tiny blip in your brain function.
But “mini-stroke” actually is a misnomer.
A more accurate term is a “warning stroke,” according to the American Stroke Association (ASA), and they are no small matter.
Both a mini-stroke (the medical term is transient ischemic attack or TIA) and a full-blown stroke are caused by an interruption in blood flow to the brain, usually from a blood clot.
“The symptoms of a TIA are oftentimes very similar to those of a stroke — these include slurring of words, facial drooping, sudden arm or leg weakness or numbness, and balance problems,” notes Howie Zheng, M.D., a neurologist at The Neurology Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
Other symptoms may include the sudden onset of confusion, coordination problems, and visual disturbances.
The only difference between a full-blown stroke and a TIA is that the blockage is temporary (or transient) with a TIA, which is why TIA symptoms typically last a relatively short time and resolve on their own.
But it’s important to take them seriously, nonetheless, because “mini-strokes may be the harbinger of a major stroke to follow,” Dr. Zheng tells Newsmax Health.
“In fact, the risk of a stroke is highest in the first few hours to days after a TIA — especially if the patient has underlying diabetes, heart disease, and untreated hypertension.”
Indeed, about a third of people who have a TIA have a full-blown stroke within a year, according to the ASA.
In the past, it was thought that a TIA didn’t cause lasting brain damage, but new research suggests that it often can have lingering consequences.
In a recent review of 31 studies on the subject, researchers from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. found that TIAs can cause residual cognitive impairment lasting for years.
Moreover, recent research from Germany found that 30 percent of TIA survivors develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including anxiety, depression, and a reduced quality of life, psychologically speaking.
Another reason to take TIA symptoms seriously: If you have stroke-like symptoms it’s difficult to tell right away if you’re having a TIA or a full-blown stroke.
That’s why it’s important to get to the hospital as soon as possible, says cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
There, you most likely will have a CT scan and/or an MRI of your brain to look for a blood clot and brain damage.
If it turns out you’ve had a full-blown stroke and you get to the hospital within three hours of the onset of symptoms, doctors can give you a clot-busting drug to stop the stroke and reduce the chances of long-term disability, Dr. Goldberg says. “We do not give clot-busting medication for TIA.”
In addition, you might have blood tests and cardiac tests to try to figure out what’s causing your stroke-like symptoms.
“One of the main causes that is readily treatable is significant stenosis [narrowing] or blockage of your carotid arteries [in the neck],” Dr. Zheng says. “If the blockage is more than 70 percent, surgical intervention is considered.”
If surgery isn’t warranted, the goal usually is to prevent another TIA or a future stroke from occurring.
Often, that involves reducing risk factors such as controlling your blood pressure and diabetes, quitting smoking, following a heart-healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
In addition, Dr. Zheng says, “doctors may prescribe an antiplatelet agent like aspirin for stroke prevention and place you on a statin for high cholesterol.”
The full version of this article appeared in Health Radar newsletter. To read more, click here.

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When you hear the term mini-stroke, you might think it's no big deal, just a tiny blip in your brain function. But "mini-stroke" actually is a misnomer. A more accurate term is a "warning stroke," according to the American Stroke Association (ASA), and they are no small...
mini-stroke, warning, symptoms, TIA, brain
Monday, 16 March 2015 07:09 PM
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