In a previous blog, we discussed the signs, symptoms and effects of a stroke. Today, we are going to cover one type of stroke in particular: a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA).

As we mentioned before, a stroke is essentially a “brain attack” that happens when an artery or blood vessel is blocked by a blood clot. This blockage in turn interrupts steady blood flow to an entire area of the brain, and the brain cells in that area begin to die and damage occurs.

The difference between a stroke and TIA is that, in an instance of a TIA, the blockage is transient – aka, it’s temporary.

A TIA has the same origins as an ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke. TIAs happen when blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a short period of time.

A TIA is commonly referred to as a mini-stroke in that it can mimic stroke-like symptoms. These symptoms occur at a rapid rate and usually last a relatively short time.

Most TIAs are less than five minutes and, when it’s over, in most cases there is no permanent injury to the brain.

Some common causes of a TIA include:

  1. Buildup of cholesterol-containing fatty deposits called plaques in an artery (or its branches) that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain. These plaques can decrease blood flow through an artery or can potentially lead to the development of a clot.
  2. When a blood clot moves to an artery that supplies the brain from a different part of the body, most commonly the heart, it can cause a TIA.
  3. High blood pressure or diabetes may damage smaller blood vessels in the brain, which can cause a clot to form in the blood vessels and block the blood flow.

There also are risk factors associated with TIAs. Though these cannot be changed, it’s important to be aware in order to make a concerted effort to reduce other risks.

  1. Age As a person ages, his or her risk also increases, particularly after age 55.
  2. Gender– Men have a slightly higher likelihood of both TIA and stroke.
  3. Family history– If one of your family members has had a TIA or a stroke, your risk could potentially be greater.
  4. Prior TIAs– Did you know that 40 percent of people who have a TIA will have an actual stroke? If you have had one or more TIAs, you’re 10 times more likely to have a full stroke.
  5. Sickle cell disease– Strokes are a common complication of sickle cell disease, also known as sickle cell anemia. This occurs when sickle-shaped blood cells carry less oxygen and get stuck in artery walls, which hinders the blood flow to the brain.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician if you are interested in learning more about the common causes and risk factors of TIAs.

Check back in the coming weeks to learn about the tests and treatments options for this type of stroke.


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