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Transient ischemic attack

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Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is commonly known as a mini stroke that happens for a moment when the blood supply to the brain halts for a few seconds without causing any major damage to the body. We shall discuss the details in the upcoming segment

Symptoms of TIA

The symptoms of TIA are similar to initials signs of heart attack and they do not last long, i.e. within 10-20 minutes they disappear. They are:

  • Sudden numbness, weakness and tingling or paralysis in the face, leg, arm or one side of the body
  • Confusion, blurry vision
  • Trouble in understanding speech
  • Trouble in speaking, haltered speech
  • Dizziness, nausea, vomiting
  • Losing balance while walking
  • Sudden headache which is severe

Causes of TIA

The main cause of TIA is presence of blood clot that obstructs blood flow to the brain for a few seconds. The blockage is not permanent and as soon as the clot dissolves blood flow is normalized.

The blood clot doesn’t form all of a sudden but it results from cholesterol build up inside the arteries. These deposits are called plaques and the medical condition is termed as atherosclerosis. Formation of plaques narrows down the arteries that carry blood to the brain, as a result blood clots and stops blood supply to the brain for a short time.

Blood clots can also occur due to abnormal heart rhythms or previous history of heart attack. These clots in the heart can travel to the brain and cut of blood supply

“Low flow” of blood due to sudden and abnormal drop in blood pressure can also lead to TIA

When to see a doctor?

TIA is a warning signal for a future heart attacks and strokes. So under any circumstances you should not neglect any of those aforementioned symptoms. The symptoms can last for 24 hours. Call emergency care at home or visit your nearest hospital once you recover from the attack.

Diagnosis of TIA

In the clinic, you doctor will evaluate the symptoms and check your medical history. Some common physical examinations include checking BP, listening to the arteries with stethoscope and checking the eyes for presence of cholesterol fragments.

Blood tests will be done to check cholesterol, blood glucose and homocysteine level in the body.

Since TIA leaves behind chances of heart attack in the future, your doctor will suggest several tests to check the condition of your heart. This includes

  • CT scan
  • angiogram (Magnetic resonance angiography)
  • MRI of the brain
  • chest x ray
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • echo cardiogram,
  • electrocardiogram
  • arteriography.

All these tests are aimed at picturing the internal conditions of the heart and the blood vessels of the heart, neck and the brain.

Treatment for TIA

The treatment is targeted to improve blood flow to reduce chances of future heart attack. It further depends on the diagnostic test reports.

Medicines like anti-platelet drugs, anti-coagulants, antihypertensive pills, cholesterol reducers and blood thinners are prescribed

Surgery is needed to open up the arteries and to remove the fatty deposits or clots from the arteries. They include carotid endarterectomy and angioplasty or carotid artery stenting.

Preventing TIA with lifestyle changes

  • Control weight gain and manage diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Exercise regularly- go for half an hour walk everyday
  • Minimize eating foods containing cholesterol, saturated fats, excessive salts and unhealthy carbohydrates
  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Cut down completely on smoking and alcohol

Remember, if you have survived TIA then you need to be utterly careful about your health. Chances of heart attack can be reduced to a large extent if you incorporate these lifestyle changes and take the medicines as directed by your doctor.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015