Mini-strokes, or transient ischaemic attacks (TIA), are caused by a temporary interruption of the blood flow to the brain, depriving it of oxygen. Most TIAs are usually caused by a blood clot in one of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.
Symptoms of a TIA are the same as a full blown stroke, but the big difference is that they are temporary and only last for a short time, anything from a few minutes to a day.
A TIA is the major warning sign that a full blown stroke may be on the way. Around one in five people who have a TIA go on to have a major stroke within four weeks.
Yet, too many people carry on as usual without getting the treatment urgently needed to prevent a future stroke. One study by Oxford University found that TIA patients were less likely to visit a doctor if their symptoms didn’t last for long or if they occurred on a Friday, during the weekend or on holiday.
Each year around 65,000 people will have a TIA, according to a recent UK stroke audit. Stroke is the third biggest cause of death in the UK, after heart disease and cancer, and the leading cause of disability. A TIA should never be ignored, no matter how quickly you may recover from one.
If you had problems breathing and/or chest pain, you wouldn’t think twice about dialling 999; you should react in the same way if you experience any of the symptoms of a TIA.
Stroke and mini-stroke warning signs (FAST signs)
- Face: facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
- Arm: does it show weakness? – can the person raise both arms?
- Speech: problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
- Time: time to call 999
Other symptoms of a TIA or stroke include:
- Weakness, numbness, pins and needles on one side of the body – an arm, leg or face
- Blurred or disturbed vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden memory loss or confusion