In a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or "mini stroke", the symptoms of stroke lasts only a few minutes and doesn't cause permanent brain damage. However, it is not to be taken lightly.

How to know if you are having a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

Symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) are the same as that of a stroke (except for lasting only for a short time) and can include one or more of the following:

  • Temporary numbness or weakness on one side of the body or face

  • Difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying

  • Temporary loss of vision in one eye

  • Severe dizziness or loss of balance

  • Difficulty swallowing

If you experience any of these symptoms, call for emergency medical help as it could mean a TIA or a full stroke.

No permanent damage to the brain

The Department of Neurology from National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the SingHealth group, shared that a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is a temporary severe reduction in blood supply to certain parts of the brain or the central nervous system. This can result in stroke symptoms but without permanent damage to the brain.

The reduction in blood supply can be caused by a narrowing of a blood vessel in the brain due to the build-up of fatty deposits called plaque. It can also be due to a blood clot in a blood vessel in the brain or a blood clot in another part of the body, such as the heart, which travels to the brain and blocks the blood supply to the brain.

The effects of a TIA are temporary, unlike a stroke, which can result in permanent damage to the brain. Most patients recover from a TIA within 10 minutes to a few hours.

Stroke risk after a transcient ischaemic attack (TIA)

The Department of Neurology added that factors such as poorly controlled high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes mellitus (type 2 dianetes) increased a person's risk of TIA. A minor stroke must be taken seriously as it is usually a harbinger of worse things to come. It serves as a warning sign of an impending stroke, so it should not be ignored.

A US study showed that among 1,707 TIA cases, about 5 per cent of them developed a stroke within 48 hours, and one in four had a stroke, heart attack or recurrent TIA.

What to do after a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

A TIA is a wake-up call and there are several ways to reduce the risk of getting another TIA or a full-blown stroke.

  1. Take better control of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and quit smoking (if the person hasn't). The person should also make lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, exercising regularly and taking medication diligently.

  2. Taking blood thinning medication is another way, if there are no complications.

  3. In some cases, surgery is recommended for those with moderate to severe blockage of the carotid artery, which delivers blood to the brain.

The longer a patient stays without another TIA or a stroke and with proper control of their risk factors, the lower their risk of having another TIA or stroke. The risk of stroke is highest in the first few days after a TIA.

Who is at risk of a transcient ischaemic attack (TIA)

  • The elderly

  • Those with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and heart disease which are poorly controlled

  • Smokers

  • Males are at higher risk than females

Ref: R14

Check out other articles on stroke: 

4 Facts About Stroke You Need to Know

10 Ways to Prevent Stroke

When Stroke Strikes During Sleep

What to Expect When a Stroke Occurs