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Mini strokes are also called transient ischemic attacks (TIA). Don’t let the idea that these are called “mini” fool you into thinking they’re not dangerous. Roughly 30% of people who suffer a mini-stroke will later suffer a full stroke, and if you believe you’ve had one, you should get immediate medical care.
Symptoms of mini strokes include sudden loss of balance, weakness on one side of the body, sudden blindness and speech difficulties. In most cases when you suffer a stroke, these symptoms will persist. With these small strokes, symptoms may be gone in a few minutes or a few hours. They are caused by the blood flow to the brain being temporarily interrupted or significantly reduced.
Some things that may cause mini strokes include hardening or narrowing arteries that supply blood to the brain. Sometimes plaque buildup in the veins can temporarily affect flow or a blood clot moves from somewhere else to the brain, but it is small enough to break up quickly or only partially occludes blood supply.
There are a number of risk factors for mini strokes. These include if you have a family history of transient ischemic attacks, and if you have had a TIA before. People who smoke, who are overweight or who have heart disease or high blood pressure are also at risk. High cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and even certain types of blood disorder that cause high platelet level may make people more at risk. Men seem more prone to get these attacks than do women, and there are other conditions that can make people at greater risk for mini strokes.
Many conditions that can cause a TIA can be controlled through behavior modification and medication. For instance, one causal factor can be a sedentary lifestyle and this can be changed. Other potential risk factors are not changeable. People who have had heart surgery and had valves replaced with artificial ones may be more at risk than others, but at the least, they can change behavior in terms of living a healthy lifestyle to somewhat reduce additional risk factors.
People should see a doctor immediately if they suspect they are having a mini-stroke. There are several ways doctors can confirm diagnosis. People will have blood tests and may undergo a number of tests to identify cause. These tests can include echocardiograms, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans to look at the heart, the major arteries, and the brain.
When diagnosis is confirmed, doctors can help to prevent further TIAs through a combination of medication and other therapies. If an artery is reduced in size, surgery may be required to avoid formation of blood clots or reduced blood flow. Many people take anti-coagulants like warfarin or sometimes aspirin to reduce risk of additional blood clots. People will also be advised to eat a healthy diet, reduce sodium intake, cut fat intake, quit smoking if they smoke, and get exercise.