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Transient ischemic attack symptoms

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Identifying a transient ischemic attack

Symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) are only temporary and do not have any lasting effects. It serves as a warning sign, with one in three people who experience a TIA going on to have a stroke, many of which within a year.

Also known as a mini stroke, TIA symptoms only occur for a short time and are due to a momentary lack of blood to the brain. The duration of symptoms is usually very short, subsiding within an hour, but can sometimes last up to a day.


Signs of a mini stroke

Similar to those of a full stroke, transient ischemic attack symptoms can be spotted through performing essential checks, but other signs are also common.

Weakness or paralysis

This typically happens on one side of the body. It can usually be noticed in the face, with it dropping to one side, but can also be shown through clumsiness of a hand, arm or leg.

Slurred speech and lack of comprehension

Speech may become garbled which is challenging to interpret, or a person may be struggling to talk at all. Alongside this, they may show signs of not being able to understand what others are saying.

Unsteadiness

Due to the partial paralysis, the individual experiencing a mini stroke will be unable to balance and will also be seen to have a lack of coordination.

Issues with vision

The sense of unsteadiness may be heightened by the loss of sight in one eye, sudden blurring or double vision.

Sudden, severe headache

A headache without a clear reason behind it may be a sign of a transient ischemic attack and should be treated with caution when paired with other symptoms.


Spotting the signs of a TIA

Coming on suddenly and without warning, it is useful to have an easy way to remember the symptoms of a TIA.

FAST (face, arms, speech and time) is a helpful abbreviation that helps to recognise some of the signs.

F for face – a drooped or uneven smile

A for arms – numb and weak arms

S for speech – trouble talking or understanding others

T for time – if you see the above symptoms, it’s time to call 999


Seeking medical advice

If you realise that you or a loved one are showing mini stroke symptoms, call 999 immediately. Even if the symptoms start to subside while you are waiting for an ambulance, it is important that you still see a doctor.

With most individuals experiencing a stroke not long after a TIA, it is imperative that if you believe you have previously shown these symptoms, you seek urgent medical assistance. Make an appointment with your GP and they will be able to refer you to the appropriate assessments, if necessary.

You should see a specialist within seven days, but if your GP believes that you are at a high risk of having a stroke, they will organise for you to see someone within 24 hours.


Are any tests usual after a TIA?

After experiencing a mini stroke, you will usually be advised to undergo several tests to effectively find if there are any specific reasons behind the formation of the blood clot or an underlying condition.

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) to check for an irregular heartbeat
  • Blood tests
  • A brain scan
  • An ultrasound scan of your arteries to see if you have severe narrowing caused by atheroma

How are transient ischemic attacks treated?

Several options are available when treating transient ischemic attack symptoms. Even though they do not leave lasting damage, it is still important to take steps to reduce the risk of experiencing a full, life-threating stroke.

Your doctor may look at adjusting your medication to help improve the blood flow to the brain, or will suggest changes to your lifestyle such as regularly exercising, following a balanced diet, reducing stress and getting enough sleep.


Recovering from a mini stroke

You are very unlikely to experience long-term effects after a TIA but this does not mean that it should be ignored.

As a possible warning for an impending stroke, a TIA gives you the chance to make valuable changes to your life.

High blood pressure is often one of the most important problems that people need to address after experiencing a mini stroke. The above changes to your everyday life would help with this as well as quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake.


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