A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. It is often called a “mini stroke” because it disrupts blood supply to parts of the brain, leading to symptoms similar to those of a stroke. However, unlike a stroke, the effects of a TIA are temporary and usually resolve within 24 hours.
Even though the effects of a TIA are usually temporary, they should still be taken very seriously. A TIA may be a warning sign of an impending stroke and prompt medical attention is crucial to prevent a more severe stroke from occurring.
If you suspect someone is having a stroke, it is important to act quickly and phone 999. Time is of the essence when it comes to treating strokes. Receiving urgent medical care can significantly affect the outcome for the individual affected.
What causes TIA?
The most common cause of TIA is a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain, leading to a temporary disruption in blood flow. This can be caused by several factors, such as fatty material in the artery (plaque) or an air bubble. In rare cases, a small amount of bleeding in the brain (haemorrhage) can also cause a TIA.
Other factors that can contribute to the development of TIA include high blood pressure (hypertension), narrowed arteries caused by plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) in or around the brain, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. These risk factors can increase the likelihood of a blood clot forming and causing a TIA.
- Age – The risk of having a TIA or stroke increases as we get older. Despite being rare, younger people can still experience a TIA or stroke.
- Family history – If someone in your family has had a stroke before the age of 65, your own risk increases.
- Race – Certain racial groups such as black or South Asian families have a higher risk of stroke than others.
- Sex – Women have a higher risk of stroke than males due to certain factors such as pregnancy, a history of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and postmenopausal hormone therapy.
Symptoms of TIA
The symptoms of TIA vary depending on the location of the brain that is affected. These symptoms often occur suddenly and without warning:
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arms, or legs, often affecting one side of the body
- Sudden confusion
- Trouble speaking
- Trouble understanding others
- Trouble seeing
- Trouble walking
- A severe headache that doesn’t seem to have a cause
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Facial droop
Remember that if you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of TIA, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
If you experience symptoms of TIA, a healthcare professional can conduct a physical exam and perform various tests to arrive at a diagnosis.
One common test is a neurological exam, which involves checking your vision, coordination, strength, and reflexes. They may also perform an imaging test, such as a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound, to view the blood vessels in your brain and determine if there is a blockage or narrowing.
In some cases, your healthcare professional may recommend additional tests, such as an echocardiogram or blood tests, to look for underlying conditions that may contribute to TIA.
TIA can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms may be temporary and may not be present during the exam or testing. However, swift medical attention and diagnosis can help prevent further damage to the brain and reduce the risk of a future stroke.
When to seek medical care
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any symptoms of TIA, as it can be a warning sign of a future stroke. Remember the acronym FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 999
If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Even if the symptoms have passed, it is still important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. A healthcare professional can conduct tests and determine if a TIA has occurred, and can provide appropriate treatment to reduce the risk of a future stroke.
Home care for TIA
If you or a loved one have experienced a TIA or stroke, it is important to have a comprehensive care plan in place to ensure a smooth recovery and reduce the risk of future incidents. At The Good Care Group, our expert team of caregivers can provide compassionate and personalised stroke care in the comfort of your own home.
We have a team of in-house specialists, including Occupational Therapist Jackie Cooper, who is able to oversee your care plan and the delivery of your care following a TIA or stroke. This includes recommendations on any equipment required to live safely at home, falls prevention advice and liaising with other healthcare professionals to ensure all of your health needs are met.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.