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Diseases & Conditions

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke), or when there is some type of blockage that cuts off blood supply (ischemic stroke). When brain cells are deprived of oxygen, they die.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

Stroke symptoms generally come on suddenly and can include:

  • Difficulty seeing from one or both eyes
  • Numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness, loss of coordination and balance
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty with talking

What is a mini-stroke?

A mini-stroke, also called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), starts like a stroke but resolves within an hour or so without any residual effects. A TIA usually lasts for a few minutes, but there is no way to tell at the beginning if a person is having a stroke or a mini-stroke. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 33 percent of the approximately 50,000 people who have mini-strokes every year will later have a more severe stroke. Therefore, TIAs should be considered warnings.

If these symptoms appear, and there is any idea that they are being caused by a stroke, it is very important to get immediate medical help.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

Some factors cannot be modified (such as age), while others can (smoking). Risks include:

  • Age
  • Family stroke history
  • Sex
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking (both tobacco and marijuana)
  • Blood cholesterol levels
  • Drug abuse
  • Obesity

How are mini-strokes treated?

After examination by a doctor, and depending upon the medical history of the person, suggested treatments could include drugs or surgery in order to reduce the risk of having a full-blown stroke. Drug treatment could include antiplatelets, especially aspirin. Other people who have an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) may get prescriptions for anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin).

How can acute future stroke risk be decreased?

  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Treat high blood pressure.
  • Eat a balanced diet in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stop drinking alcohol, except in moderation.
  • Exercise.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/27/2008...#14173