When blood flow to part of the brain stops for a short period of time, also called transient ischemic attack (TIA), it can mimic stroke-like symptoms. These symptoms appear and last less than 24 hours before disappearing. While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future and should not be ignored.
Prompt treatment of a TIA could reduce the likelihood of having a full-blown stroke by roughly 80 percent, according to a new report. People who have a mini-stroke typically recover from symptoms, such as trouble speaking or paralysis, within minutes. (See this link for more on TIAs)
But a trio of neurologists from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., warn that these seemingly fleeting events are often followed by a more severe stroke."The diagnosis of a TIA represents the recognition of a medical emergency and an opportunity to reduce the risk of stroke by decisively evaluating the patient and applying any combination of the currently available therapeutic strategies," the authors wrote in their report.
Most strokes occur when blood clots block blood flow to the brain. Blood clots also cause TIAs, according to the neurologists -- Dr. Camilo Gomez, Dr. Michael Schneck and Dr. Jose Biller.
Within 30 days of having a TIA, however, people have a 5 percent to 10 percent chance of having a more serious stroke, the report noted. And 15 to 20 percent of people who've had a stroke report experiencing a TIA first.
In the United States, more than 200,000 people have a mini-stroke each year. Prompt evaluation and treatment of a TIA could prevent a more devastating and disabling stroke, the neurologists said.
Educating people who've had a TIA about the risk for stroke is also important. "Patients must be counseled about smoking cessation, proper diet (preferably Mediterranean), regular exercise, maintenance of appropriate BMI (body mass index) and limiting alcohol consumption," the team wrote.