• Is A Mini Stroke Different To A Regular Stroke?
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|Is A Mini Stroke Different To A Regular Stroke?
Yes it is. When people talk about mini strokes they are referring to a transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIAs are temporary interruptions of blood flow to the brain. While the signs are similar to symptoms of stroke, a TIA does not cause permanent damage to brain cells nor does it result in disability. All signs of the TIA disappear within 24 hours. However although they may cause no harm, TIAs can recur and each time you have a TIA it increases your chance of a stroke. In other words, TIAs are considered warning signs of an imminent stroke, much in the same way that angina attacks can be a precursor to a heart attack.
A TIA or mini stroke is caused by a temporary lapse in blood supply to the brain. This can cause stroke-like symptoms such as slurred speech and numbness on one side of the body. Unlike a major stroke however a mini stroke usually only lasts a few minutes and the symptoms clear up within 24 hours. Although it does not cause lasting damage a mini stroke is still considered a medical emergency because it is a warning sign that a real stroke might strike soon. Studies show that nearly 80 percent of stroke victims have a history of TIAs.
Similar to an ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke), most mini strokes are caused by a clot forming in one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain. In the case of an ischemic stroke, immediate medical intervention in the form of clot-busting thrombolytic therapy is necessary to restore blood flow. With mini strokes, the clot resolves quickly on its own without intervention. The very fact however that the clot was able to form in the first place indicates an underlying problem such as atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation. These are the same problems that can lead to ischemic strokes. In some instances TIAs may be caused by minor brain hemorrhage (severe bleeding is considered a hemorrhage stroke) but this is rare. See also, causes of stroke.
The main signs of a TIA are those associated with ischemic stroke. They can be remembered by the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time (image):
The symptoms of mini stroke depend on which part of the brain is affected. TIAs that affect parts of the brain not frequently used for day to day activities can result in symptoms which are so mild as to be almost unnoticeable. For example the victim may have difficulty writing for a couple of hours but dismiss it as tiredness. In other words, it is quite possible to have a mini stroke without realizing it. By contrast, a mini stroke which affects part of the brain which is used heavily can cause extremely debilitating temporary symptoms. For example they may problems walking, speaking, experience vertigo or have double vision.
It is difficult to know exactly how common TIAs are, as many remain unreported. This is worrying because up to 20 percent of people who experience an untreated TIA go on to have a major stroke within 3 months. It is thought that about one in every 1,000 people suffer a TIA every year. To discover your risks, see: stroke risk factors.
If you suspect you may have had a TIA, seek immediate medical attention. Doctors can perform a CT scan or MRI scan on the brain to determine if a mini stroke has occurred (stroke diagnosis). These imaging techniques should also help to determine the cause which is useful for determining treatment. Doctors may also use vascular screening, an ultrasound technology that can be used to detect blockages or narrowing in the arteries supplying blood to the brain.
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. The main thing is however that the patient receives treatment and does so within 24 hours. Recent studies indicate that treatment within this time period cuts the risk of stroke by up to 80 percent. This timeframe is important, because traditionally mini strokes were not considered a medical emergency and patients were referred to specialist clinics for stroke treatment, waiting several weeks before being seen. Once diagnosed, treatment recommended will depend on the underlying cause. For example if the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis) of the brain is the cause, medications and even surgery may be considered.
Although doctors agree that TIAs should be medically treated, there is still no accepted post-TIA treatment to help patients reduce their chances of a major stroke. One recent study by Indiana University however showed that TIA patients reduced their risk factors by following a modified version of cardiac rehabilitation. Participants in the study showed improvement in blood pressure levels and physical endurance, both associated with stroke prevention. Patients were required to undergo 1.5 hours of cardiac rehab, 3 times a week for 6 weeks.
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For more on vascular disorder prevention, see the following:
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