transient ischemic attack (TIA) - symptoms and treatment

What is Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A brief, episodic interruption of the flow of BLOOD to the BRAIN, often called a mini-STROKE. The most common cause of a TIA is a fragment of ATHEROSCLEROTIC PLAQUE or a BLOOD clot that breaks free and travels through the blood circulation until it lodges in an ARTERY or arteriole. TIAs also can be hemorrhagic, the result of small ruptures in the tiny arteries in the brain, often a consequence of untreated HYPERTENSION (high BLOOD PRESSURE) and CAROTID STENOSIS (narrowing and occlusion of the carotid artery in the neck). ATRIAL FIBRILLATION and VALVULAR HEART DISEASE are other common sources of clots.

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack

Symptoms of TIA are brief and temporary and may include

  • episodes of SYNCOPE (loss of CONSCIOUSNESS) or “freezing,” in which the person appears conscious and alert but does not respond
  • episodes of tingling or numbness affecting the face or parts of the body such as the fingers or hand, typically only on one side of the body
  • temporary inability to use the arm or leg, or both, on one side of the body
  • lapses in cognitive function or memory

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) Diagnostic and Treatment

TIAs are more common in people over age 70. Doctors generally consider them to be warning signs of impending stroke. Early diagnosis and therapeutic intervention can help avert fullfledged stroke. The diagnostic path typically includes imaging procedures such as COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (CT) SCAN or MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI). Treatment may include ANTICOAGULATION THERAPY to reduce the blood’s tendency to clot as well as medications to treat arrhythmias (notably atrial fibrillation), hypertension, and HYPERLIPIDEMIA (elevated blood lipid levels), if these conditions are present. The cardiologist may recommend carotid ENDARTERECTOMY when carotid stenosis is a causative factor.


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