Overview

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a common medical condition that mostly affects the elderly

This condition is often referred to as a mini-stroke since it shares the same pathophysiology with full-blown cerebrovascular accidents (a.k.a. strokes), with the primary differences of being reversible and the absence of long-lasting sequala.

However, studies show that TIA might be a warning sign that a stroke is coming, especially during the 3-month period post-TIA.

In this article, we will briefly discuss the signs and symptoms of mini-strokes, their causes, and the available treatment options.

Signs and symptoms of mini-strokes

As mentioned earlier, the key difference between TIA and a stroke is the reversibility factor. In other words, the symptoms of TIA will disappear after a few hours, while post-stroke symptoms may last for lifelong.

Therefore, the signs and symptoms of mini-strokes are strictly dependent on the affected vascular region, and they can identical to stroke.

Here are the common signs and symptoms of TIA in the elderly:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Facial paralysis
  • Aphasia (inability to speak)
  • Double vision
  • Loss of motor function
  • Loss of sensitivity
  • Severe lethargy
  • Digestive symptoms (e.g., nausea, vomiting)
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Hiccups
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion and agitation

As you can see, these signs and symptoms are nonspecific, which may be challenging for physicians to identify, especially in the elderly with several medical conditions.

Causes of mini-strokes

Mini-stokes have identical risk factors to strokes, which also include elements that increase the chances of vascular occlusion and atherosclerosis.

These risk factors will contribute to the occlusion of cerebral blood vessels that will release a clot, which reversibly blocks a small-sized blood vessel, leading to a TIA.

Some of these factors include advanced age, obesity, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, dyslipidemia, and blood hypertension.

Treatment of mini-strokes

During a TIA, the physician will observe the signs and symptoms in an attempt to come up with a working diagnosis that fits the clinical presentation.

Once this step is over, the management plan includes the administration of different drugs to either slow down, reverse, or prevent the damage.

Some of these drugs might include statins, anticoagulants, anti-platelets, and antihypertension drugs.

After the administration of the medications and stabilizing the patient, the physician will set up an appointment with the neurologist to radically treat the condition by either angioplasty or surgery to remove the atheromatous plaque.

In some cases, the origin of the mini-stroke might not be an atheromatous plaque, but rather a clot that formed in the heart due to atrial fibrillation.

In this situation, the patient will be put under anticoagulants to prevent clot-formation and the associated complications.

Other drugs to treat symptoms may also be prescribed, including painkillers, NSAIDs, and corticoids.

Takeaway message

TIA is an extremely common condition that should be taken seriously by patients since it’s a warning sign of strokes, Patients should seek medical attention as soon as they or their carer sees any sign of an ITA.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand the major concepts about TIA, but if you still have any questions about what was discussed, please do not hesitate to contact us or check out our other blogs and articles!