Transient ischemic attacks are temporary cardiovascular episodes with dangerous repercussions, so it is important to understand the underlying causes and symptoms.
Causes of Transient Ischemic Attack
Commonly known as a mini-stroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) causes neurological dysfunction due to a temporary loss of blood flow to the focal brain, spinal cord, or retina. A transient ischemic attack is temporary, sometimes lasting only a few seconds or minutes whereas a normal stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks part of the blood flow to the brain.
The actual cause of a TIA is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, commonly known as atherosclerosis. That blockage can slow down the flow of blood, and thus cause a TIA, or cause a clot to form and move towards the brain from another part of the body. Fortunately, there is not typically any permanent damage as a result of a TIA, but it can be a warning sign that you are at high risk for strokes and other cardiovascular issues.
Transient Ischemic Attack- Risk Factors
Some of the risk factors for a transient ischemic attack include
- Family history of strokes, age, race (African Americans are disproportionately more likely to suffer from TIA)
- Previous history of cardiovascular problems, such as other TIAs
- Lifestyle factors – obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Birth control
Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack
Symptoms of ischemia include:
- Numbness, or contralateral paralysis (paralysis on the opposite side of the body from where the ischemia occurs)
- Trouble with your vision
- Speech impediments
- Dizziness and balance issues
- Sudden confusion
- Inability to focus
These symptoms can last for as little as five minutes, up to 24 hours, but the effects are always temporary. When the symptoms first appear, they feel a great deal like a stroke, which is why TIAs are particularly frightening for people.
You should call 911 and go to the hospital, as mini-strokes may happen in rapid succession, or be a precursor to a full stroke or heart attack. Seeking medical attention is essential, despite the fact that there are a number of home preventative methods and treatments that could be effective.