Is It A Stroke or A TIA?
A ministroke is a term sometimes used to refer to what is medically called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Ischemic means there is not enough oxygen being delivered to a tissue.
A transient ischemic attack occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, temporarily limiting the oxygen supply to the brain. A TIA is essentially a brief stroke with symptoms that appear and then disappear on their own, usually within minutes.
The signs and symptoms of a TIA occur suddenly and are the same as those with an acute stroke:
In contrast to a true stroke, a TIA leaves no permanent neurological damage after the signs and symptoms spontaneously resolve.
TIAs are also sometimes called "warning strokes" since they are warning signs that a person is at risk for a more serious, true stroke. In fact, about a third of people who have TIAs eventually have a serious stroke. About half of these strokes strike within a year of the TIA.
A person who has had a TIA can take steps to reduce their risk of having a stroke. Drug therapy, particularly with aspirin, can help prevent a stroke. (Aspirin is a potent antiplatelet agent and helps keep blood from clotting.) Lifestyle changes (maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, stopping smoking, reducing excessive alcohol consumption) can also reduce the risk of a stroke.
It is important to remember that the symptoms of a TIA and a stroke are the same, so if you experience these symptoms, there is no way to tell if you are having a TIA or a stroke. A stroke is always a medical emergency. Prompt recognition and treatment reduces the risk of death from a stroke and the degree of neurological impairment and disability.
Never wait to see if the symptoms of stroke will go away. Anyone with symptoms of a stroke should receive immediate, emergency medical attention.
Last Editorial Review: 6/15/2005