It could last only seconds and it could last for several minutes. A sudden drooping of your face, a disturbing slurring of words, an alarming weakness in one arm. As soon as you and those around you begin to panic, the symptoms disappear.
Everyone around you thought you were having a stroke, they were getting ready to call 9-1-1 and now you’re absolutely fine, as if nothing at all happened. You can talk clearly, lift both arms equally and your face looks just fine. You feel a little silly – what would you tell 9-1-1 if you called now?
You’ll still dial 9-1-1 right now, or have someone drive you to the Emergency Room immediately. You’ll tell them you had a TIA, a Transient Ischemic Attack. There is no time to lose – remember that time is brain.
A TIA is often called a “mini-stroke”, but the common name really should be a “warning stroke.” A TIA and a full-blown ischemic stroke are both caused by exactly the same thing – a clot of plaque, a fatty deposit of cholesterol, white blood cells and other substances.
An ischemic stroke happens when the clot blocks blood flow completely within an artery supplying blood to the brain and doesn’t move. This shuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain. Medical intervention is needed to dissolve the clot and open the artery. Keeping the time lapsed from symptoms occurring to treatment beginning as brief as possible is critical to avoid permanent brain damage.
A TIA occurs when the clot blocks blood flow temporarily – or transiently – for just seconds or up to about 5 minutes. The average time of symptoms is one minute. Your body’s natural clot-dissolving agents then break up the plaque and the blockage opens, eliminating symptoms. Usually there is no permanent damage from a TIA.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay to just mention it at your next annual medical exam. A TIA really is a warning stroke. Get to the Emergency Room immediately and report all your symptoms and their duration.
You will be physically examined and, as recommended, may have an ultrasound, CT, or other imaging tests. Your medical professionals will want to identify the cause of your TIA and take steps to avoid an ischemic stroke. Depending upon the severity of your symptoms, the test results and your overall health, medication may be prescribed or surgical procedures may be recommended.
Over 30% of people who experience a TIA will have an ischemic stroke within a year, so do not take a “wait and see” approach. Preventing a stroke after a TIA means preventing permanent brain damage which can severely impact your quality of life.
If you have any questions about TIA or ischemic stroke, call Vascular Specialists at 815-824-4406. Dr. Tanquilut, Dr. Pradhan and our professional staff are always happy to talk about your vascular health!