Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) – Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

Posted on April 18th, 2020 by Ganesh Gopakumar

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Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

TIA is a stroke-like condition that is temporary. TIA has almost the same symptoms as a stroke but only for a short period of time. It is also called ministroke. It happens when blood flow to the brain is cut-off for a few moments. The blood flow is cut-off due to a block in the artery carrying oxygenated blood to the brain. However, the damage caused to the brain is just temporary.TIA is a warning light for a stroke coming up on the person. There is a high chance of a person getting TIA to be affected by stroke in a year or so. 

Symptoms of TIA

The symptoms persist only for a small amount of time. In most cases, the symptoms go away in an hour. But it can last up to 24 hours in some rare cases. The symptoms include:

  • Weakness or paralysis of one side of the body.
  • Slurring of speech.
  • Double vision or loss of vision.
  • Loss of body balance.

What causes Transient ischemic attack?

All cells and tissues in your body need oxygen to survive and function properly. The oxygen is supplied to different parts of the body through blood. When oxygen does not reach the cells, it starts to die or does not function properly. The same aspect applies to the brain. When an artery to the brain has a block in it, it is unable to supply enough oxygenated blood to the brain tissues. As the brain does not receive enough oxygen it cannot function as normal. This leads to muscle weakness or slurred speech. 

How is TIA different from ischemic stroke?

Both TIA and ischemic strokes are almost similar in symptoms. Both of them are caused by an insufficient supply of oxygenated blood to the brain. But the main difference between them is that TIA causes temporary damage to the brain. Ischemic strokes are more dangerous and cause permanent damage to the brain. The block in the artery that causes TIA, is soon pushed aside by the flowing blood or broken down by chemicals. Therefore, the symptoms go in away usually about an hour. But the ischemic stroke involves a lack of oxygenated blood to the brain for a prolonged time and causes permanent brain damage. The slurring of speech and loss of muscle movement on one side usually are permanent.

Who is it at risk of transient ischemic attack?

How to prevent TIA?

Consume cholesterol and fats in moderation

Cholesterol and fats can accumulate in the blood vessels forming plaque. The plague is responsible for a block in blood vessels. So consuming less of these can limit the formation of plague and hence prevents the blood vessels from getting blocked. 

Exercise regularly 

30 minutes of moderate exercise lessens your risk of getting a TIA. Cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, are more effective. Exercise has a positive impact on the cardiovascular system and helps to keep you healthy. A healthy cardiovascular system has less chance of getting a block in the arteries.

Quit smoking

Smoking is really a killer by all means. In the case of TIA, it can lead to blood clots, as it produces more cholesterol fatty deposits in the bloodstream. It also increases your blood pressure which is another factor that can increase your chances of getting TIA. Above all, smoking is injurious to health and better to quit for a healthy life. 

Limit the intake of alcohol

Alcohol also increases your chances of getting plague and eventually TIA. So consume alcohol in moderation. 

Control diabetes

Diabetes is another factor that contributes to plaque formation. Keep your diabetes in control and reduce your chances of getting a TIA. 

Avoid recreational drugs

Drugs such as cocaine, MDMA can really hike your chances of getting a stroke. Make sure you avoid them. They are illegal and can cause serious health issues. 

How is TIA diagnosed?

  • You will have slurring of speech, loss of movement of one side or any other symptoms mentioned above.
  • The doctor will conduct a physical as well as neurological examination. Your speech, vision, balance, and movement will all be looked into. 
  • A CT scan or an MRI scan can tell whether you have a stroke. An MRI diffusion image will be more helpful.
  • Carotid ultrasonography might be done to check for any block in your carotid artery.

 Treatment options

Once you have been diagnosed with TIA, the next step would be to prevent a possible stroke. For this, he would suggest medication, maybe a surgery in severe blockage of an artery. You will also need to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of a stroke. 

Medication

The doctors will prescribe anti-coagulant or anti-platelet drugs. Platelets are the cells in the blood that stick together and cause the blood to clot during an injury. Aspirin and Plavix are mainly used as antiplatelet drugs. They prevent the blood from clotting fast and reduces the chances of a block. 

Anticoagulants are also used to reduce the chance of blood clotting and causing a block. Heparin and Edoxaban are the most commonly used drugs. 

However, never use any of these drugs without consulting a doctor. 

Surgery

If you have moderate to severe block in your carotid arteries, surgery will be preferred. Carotid endarterectomy is a surgical procedure to correct stenosis (narrowing) in the carotid artery. The plaque is removed using a specialized instrument. It is inserted through mainly the femoral artery or any other artery. However, the chances of the formation of plaque again are also high. 

Angioplasty is another procedure done which introduces a stent in the affected area to prevent narrowing thereafter. This is much more a sure procedure since the plaque won’t be formed at the same point. 

 

FAQ

Is TIA life-threatening?

TIA alone is not life-threatening. But you should visit a doctor and be careful as you could have a stroke in the near future. TIA is usually is followed by a stroke in most cases. 

Should I consult a doctor even if the symptoms have gone away?

Definitely. There is a high chance of a stroke following up on a TIA. You should consult a doctor for necessary tests and medical advice. He might prescribe medications and lifestyle changes to prevent further stroke. Surgery would be needed in severe block of the carotid artery. 

What is the immediate first aid for a person getting TIA?

  • Call an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
  • Lay the person down on his side. Keep the head slightly raised and supported.
  • Don’t let the patient fall asleep.
  • Do not provide them with any medication, food or drinks.
  • Loosen his clothes so that breathing can be easy.
  • Support any of the limbs if weakness is evident. Do not pull them while moving the person.
  • If the person do not have a pulse or is not breathing perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) right away.

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