TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain will stop, even for a brief period of time. This can cause stroke-like systems for 24 hours or less, but mostly about 1-2 hours. A TIA is also a warning that this person might experience a stroke in the future if they don’t take steps to prevent one from occurring.

Causes of Transient Ischemic Attack

A transient ischemic attack occurs when there is loss of blood flow from an injury to the blood vessels, narrowing of a blood vessel in the bread, a blood clot in the brain’s artery, or a blood clot that travels to the brain from another part of the body such as the heart. The biggest risk factor for a transient ischemic attack and stroke is high blood pressure, with other risk factors including diabetes, a family history of TIA or stroke, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, being over the age of 55, and being African American. It seems to be equal among men and women and can be fatal for people with heart disease.

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack

The signs and symptoms of a TIA usually come on very suddenly but last a short period of time and can go away completely. Common symptoms of transient ischemic attacks are dizziness or an abnormal feeling of movement, change in alertness, changes in your feelings like touch, temperature, pressure, taste, pain, or hearing, confusion, memory loss, difficulty swallowing, difficulty reading or writing, face drooping, inability to recognize people or objects, loss of bladder or bowel control, lack of coordination, loss of vision, numbness or tingling, changes in your emotions, mood, or personality, trouble understanding words, or weakness on just one side of your body.

Diagnosing Transient Ischemic Attack

For most people, the major signs and symptoms will be gone by the time you reach the hospital as they typically last just 1-2 hours. However this can be the basis for your diagnosis of TIA as opposed to a stroke where the symptoms last much longer. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to look for blood vessel or heart issues and problems with your nerves or muscles. They will also listen to your heart and arteries if you are showing high blood pressure which is normal following a transient ischemic attack. Additional tests include a head CT scan, brain MRI, CT angiogram or MR angiogram, echocardiogram, EKG, or a carotid duplex ultrasound.

Treating Transient Ischemic Attack

The main goal of treating ITA, since the symptoms will be gone when you seek treatment, is to prevent a stroke. This is done by providing you with lifestyle changes you can make, medication for high blood pressure, and other medications.

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