TIAs are small, reversible strokes. When blood flow is temporarily insufficient for part of the brain, the brain tissue will not function properly. The changes that the patient experiences are real but reversible. The affected part of the brain loses function while the blood flow is insufficient, but it does not die, which would cause permanent loss of function. The variety of symptoms produced by TIAs is large and may involve sensory or motor functions, or both. Occasionally the symptoms may be so mild and transient that they are ignored by the patient and family alike.
There are many possible causes for the decrease in blood flow. It may be caused by disease of the blood vessels within the brain or by disease of the blood vessels outside of or leading to the brain. It can be caused by a change in the heart rhythm or by heart failure that caused a decrease in the output of blood.
Important Points in Treatment
- TIA is an urgent reason to contact your physician.
- The treatment selected must match the likely cause.
Several treatment choices involve the use of potent drugs, which pose some risks themselves. Blood thinners (anticoagulants) are an example. Often treatment is confined to the use of daily doses of aspirin. Aspirin has a direct effect on the clotting of blood; thus it can help prevent strokes. Aspirin has side effects and may cause bleeding, particularly from the gastrointestinal tract. In a few cases, surgery is an option, albeit an option with some benefits. It is important to remember that a TIA is not a disease but a symptom of underlying disease.
- If such attacks remain uncontrolled or poorly con- trolled, they may progress to a completed stroke. There is also the possibility of injury to the patient or others if an attack occurs while the patient is driving. Diagnosis should not be delayed.
Notify Our Office If ...
- You have any sign of weakness, slurring of speech, or change in alertness, even if only transient.