I have been asked to write an article about transient ischemic attack (TIA) and I am happy to do so. Sometimes called a “mini-stoke”, a more correct term would be “warning stroke”, according to the Stroke Association, and it should be taken very seriously. TIA is caused by a clot to the brain blood flow, but, unlike a full stroke, the blockage is “transient” or temporary and no permanent brain damage is done. The symptoms occur rapidly and usually last a relatively short time, most less than 5 minutes. The term “warning stroke” is used because about 1/3 of TIA patients go on to have a full stroke within a year. That is why prompt treatment for TIA needs to occur so that a stroke can be avoided.
Symptoms of a TIA include numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg--especially on one side of the body; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; and difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination. Other reportable symptoms include change in alertness, confusion, memory loss, difficulty swallowing, difficulty reading or writing, facial droop, inability to recognize people or objects, lack of bladder or bowel control, personality, mood, or emotional changes or trouble saying or understanding words. The most treatable factors of TIA per the National Institute of Health are high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, carotid artery disease, diabetes, and heavy alcohol use. Lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining healthy weight, exercising, and enrolling in smoking and alcohol cessation programs can reduce these factors. Medical help is available to treat the other risk factors. A TIA is a medical emergency. Call 911 right away—do not ignore symptoms just because they go away. A prompt evaluation (within 60 minutes) is necessary to identify the cause of the TIA and determine appropriate therapy. The acronym for a stroke is FAST—Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911. This acronym works for TIA also, along with the other signs and symptoms!
I hope this information is useful. I am always eager to provide information when requested. Let me know if there is something you would like to learn. Knowledge is power and we continue to seek ways to protect God’s gift of life to us.
Your parish nurse,
Mary Ann Martin, R.N.