Transient Ischemic Attack
weakness, tingling, or numbness, usually affecting only one
side of the body.
vision or temporary blindness in one eye.
and loss of balance or coordination.
confusion, or amnesia.
or eye pain.
When To Call Your Doctor
you experience the symptoms of a TIA, visit a doctor immediately.
Do not ignore symptoms just because they go away by themselves.
What Is It?
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when blood
flow to part of the brain is interrupted by a temporary blockage
in an artery supplying the brain. The pathological mechanism
of a TIA is identical to that of an ischemic stroke, except that
normal blood circulation is restored within 24 hours and no permanent
brain damage occurs. Most TIAs resolve within a few minutes to
an hour. Symptoms appear suddenly and vary considerably depending
on the part of the brain affected. Although TIA symptoms disappear
completely without treatment, they often recur. Prompt medical
attention is important: TIAs are a warning sign of an impending
What Causes It?
of TIAs are associated with atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaques
in the walls of the arteries. A TIA may develop when a plaque
becomes substantial enough to reduce blood supply locally in
an artery supplying the brain. More commonly, however, a TIA
occurs when a small fragment of a plaque that has broken off
from a blood vessel, or a blood clot (embolus), usually from
the heart, travels to an artery supplying the brain and lodges
in a site already narrowed by atherosclerosis.
factors for TIAs include high blood pressure, heart disease,
diabetes, smoking, and aging.
for any predisposing condition, such as hypertension, diabetes,
or heart disease.
if you are overweight.
and physical examination are needed to rule out other disorders
such as epileptic seizures and migraines.
are taken to rule out disorders like hypoglycemia.
may be done, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the
brain or ultrasound scans of the carotid arteries.
(injection of a contrast material into the blood vessels supplying
the brain to highlight them during x-ray imaging) may be performed
in some cases.
How To Treat It
inhibit blood clot formation may be prescribed. Aspirinthe
most commonly used antiplatelet agentis usually tried first.
More powerful anticoagulants such as warfarin and heparin may
be warranted in some cases.
control hypertension and blood cholesterol levels (including
drug therapy) are undertaken if needed.
have experienced one or more TIAs, who are healthy enough to
have surgery, and who show evidence of substantial atherosclerotic
narrowing in the carotid arteries (the two main blood vessels
in the neck supplying the brain) may be good candidates for carotid
endarterectomya surgical procedure to clear away plaque
deposits in the arteries. This technique is not appropriate for
all patients, but in those who do qualify, it has been shown
to reduce the risk of having a stroke in the future.
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