Both transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) and strokes occur when a blockage limits blood supply to the brain. People sometimes refer to TIAs as ministrokes.
The World Stroke Association estimates that
This article discusses the causes, symptoms, and treatment of TIAs and stroke. It also discusses ways to prevent these events.
There are several types of stroke, each with its own causes.
However, a TIA can be a warning sign that someone may experience a more severe stroke in the future. According to the American Stroke Association, about
Ischemic strokes are the most common type, making up about
- Cerebral aneurysm: This occurs when a weakened area of a blood vessel in the brain
enlargesas a result of consistent pressure.
- Arteriovenous malformation (AVM): An AVM occurs when a group of blood vessels
becomestangled. Within these tangles, arteries and veins form direct connections and disrupt natural blood flow to the brain tissue. Over time, these blood vessels become weaker and may rupture.
Symptoms can come on quickly and without warning. Despite having different causes, all types of stroke have similar symptoms since they all
- F: face drooping to one side or numbness in the face
- A: arm weakness or numbness, especially in one arm
- S: speech difficulty or slurred speech
- T: time to call 911 for medical attention
Other symptoms of stroke can include:
- numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- confusion or trouble understanding speech
- difficulty speaking
- sudden and severe headache
- trouble with vision in one or both eyes
- difficulty walking and loss of balance
All types of stroke, including TIAs, are medical emergencies. If a person thinks someone is experiencing a stroke, they should call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
Healthcare professionals treat TIAs and ischemic strokes differently than hemorrhagic strokes.
TIAs and ischemic stroke
- Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): Doctors mainly use tPA to treat ischemic strokes. The medication breaks up the clot in the blood vessel so that blood can begin to flow to the brain as usual. A medical professional usually administers tPA within 3 hours after symptoms start.
- Anticoagulants: A medical professional may administer an anticoagulant if tPA is not an option. These medications help prevent blood clots from forming or stop them from becoming larger.
- Antiplatelet medication: Doctors
may administerthis type of medication. It preventsplatelets — a component of blood — from sticking together and reduces the formation of blood clots.
- Mechanical thrombectomy: During this procedure, a healthcare professional threads a long, flexible tube through the upper thigh up to the blocked vessel in the brain. Then, they use a stent retriever to remove the blood clot from the blood vessel.
Treatment for hemorrhagic strokes can differ depending on how severe the bleed is and what part of the brain it affects. The main goal of treatment is to promote blood clotting and reduce pressure on the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke treatments
- Blood pressure reduction: Doctors
mayadminister beta-blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or hydralazine to lower blood pressure.
- Aneurysm clipping: In this surgical procedure, a doctor places a clamp at the base of the aneurysm to cut off the blood supply and prevent it from bleeding.
- Coil embolization: In this procedure, a medical professional places a catheter into an artery from the groin, and a tiny coil pushes through into the aneurysm. The coil will cause a blood clot to form, preventing blood flow from the aneurysm into surrounding brain tissue.
- Surgery: A doctor can perform several surgical procedures to improve overall outcomes after a stroke. These include:
- temporarily removing part of the skull to reduce the pressure from swelling
- removing pooled blood
- removing or shrinking an AVM — radiation may also help achieve this
People may have some
- People over 65: A person’s risk of stroke increases as they get older.
- People with a family history: A person may have a higher risk of stroke if they have a relative who has experienced one.
- African American people: African Americans have a higher likelihood of dying from stroke than white people do, possibly because they have a greater risk of health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Inequities in healthcare may be one reason for this.
TIAs and stroke have similar symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms quickly and seeking medical help can improve a person’s outlook after the event. People should seek immediate medical attention if they think someone is experiencing a stroke or TIA.
While many studies have highlighted risk factors that people cannot modify, people may be able to reduce their risk of a stroke and TIA by making lifestyle changes. People should speak with a healthcare professional about their risk of stroke and how they may be able to reduce it.