A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a mini-stroke which resembles a stroke with similar symptoms, but only lasting for a few minutes with no permanent damage. It is both a warning - of a lurking stroke within a year for every 1 in 3 people and an opportunity - to take preventive measures.
- Attacks last a few minutes and symptoms disappear within an hour
- Weakness, numbness or paralysis typically on one side of your body - face, arm or leg
- Poor comprehension and Slurring/garbling of speech
- Blindness in one/both eyes or double vision
- Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Risk factors which cannot be changed
- Family history
- Prior transient ischemic attack
- Sickle cell disease
Risk factors that can be modified
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Cardiovascular disease
- Carotid artery disease
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- High levels of homocysteine
- Excess weight
- Cigarette smoking
- Physical inactivity
- Poor nutrition
- Heavy drinking
- Use of illicit drugs
- Long term use of birth control pills
Since a TIA is short-lived, diagnosis is not possible on the medical event alone. The following are the steps of investigation:
- Physical examination and tests - To rule out risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes and amino acid homocysteine.
- Carotid ultrasonography - To look for narrowing or clotting in the carotid arteries.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scanning - To assemble a composite 3-D look at your brain.
- Computerized tomography angiography (CTA) scanning - To noninvasively evaluate the arteries in your neck and brain.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - To generate a composite 3-D view of your brain.
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) - To evaluate the arteries in your neck and brain.
- Echocardiography - To create and get a clearer and detailed ultrasound image of the heart to spot blood clots
- Arteriography - To get a better view of arteries in the brain not normally seen in X-ray imaging.
- Once the cause of the TIA is determined, doctors will advise correcting the abnormality to prevent future strokes with medication such as antiplatelet drugs or anticoagulants or recommend surgery or angioplasty
- In the event that the blood vessels (carotid arteries) in your neck are too narrow,a procedure may be done to open them up.
- TIA symbolises the fact that you are at risk of having another TIA or a stroke. But there is opportunity to prevent this through lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of stroke and improve your overall health.
- Reduce high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Ensure blood sugar levels within a target range.
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight . Excess weight will add to your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes. These conditions make a stroke more likely.
- Do at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, and foods that are low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.