Confusion. Slurred speech. Numbness that occurs on one side of the body. Sounds like a stroke, right? Then again, if those stroke-like signs subside rather quickly and are rather mild, they may be caused by a TIA (transient ischemic attack). But before breathing a sigh of relief and returning to life as usual, it’s crucial to know the facts about TIAs and why they should always be brought to the attention of a medical professional immediately.
Just What Is a TIA?
TIAs result from a blocked blood vessel that temporarily obstructs the flow of blood to the brain. Signs resemble those that manifest during a stroke, but resolve quickly and do not cause permanent neurological problems or brain damage. As a result, many people shrug them off and do not seek medical care.
Why Alert the Doctor About a TIA?
Consider a TIA as a critical “check engine” light in your automobile. Though you may perhaps still be able to drive the car, leaving the error message unchecked could lead to tragedy. After a TIA has taken place, there is a 10 – 20 percent risk of stroke in the next 7 days, and a 9 – 17 percent risk in 90 days.
Also, because TIA and stroke symptoms are so very similar, you can’t initially tell which condition is taking place. Immediate medical attention is vital in the event of a stroke. The longer left without treatment, the more injury a stroke can cause to the brain, and the more severe and long-lasting the damage might be.
Chris Streib, MD, Neurologist at M Health Fairview, shares, “In some ways, people who have a TIA are actually very fortunate. It’s a warning that they are at high risk of a stroke that could cause permanent deficits. They have a chance to make immediate lifestyle and medication change to reduce their risk of an actual stroke.”
Take These Steps if You Suspect a TIA
If you detect the symptoms below that could indicate either a TIA or stroke, call 911 immediately. A visit to the emergency room can allow for imaging and other tests to view the brain and blood vessels, determine the cause of the event, and then begin a treatment plan. Treatment for a TIA is different from that of a stroke, so getting a correct diagnosis as quickly as possible is key.
The most recent guidelines to check for TIA or stroke signs follow the acronym BE FAST:
- B: Balance. Is the person having trouble standing up?
- E: Eyes. Is the person having vision problems?
- F: Face. Is one side of the person’s face drooping?
- A: Arms. Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm?
- S: Speech. Is the person having trouble speaking, or are words slurred?
- T: Timing. Call 911 immediately, and note the time the symptoms started.
Home Care Will Help!
- Monitoring for changes in condition and arranging for immediate emergency medical care and attention if any concerning signs are detected
- Providing medication reminders so prescriptions are taken just as the physician has ordered
- Post-hospitalization care to make transitioning from hospital to home as seamless as possible
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapy to overcome the effects of a TIA or stroke
- And many more