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TIA Symptoms
October 2000

Q. Six months ago, I had a TIA and suffered loss of speech and blurred vision. I am still having trouble with regaining my speech. I cannot find words that I normally have no trouble saying. I often have pain in my head (not headaches) and have great trouble retaining new information. I am finding it difficult to function at work this way. Is all this TIA related? Am I having more TIA attacks?

A. A TIA refers to transient ischemic attack, meaning there is an interruption of oxygen supply to an area of the brain. These are sometimes even called "mini-strokes" meaning some brain function was affected but the symptoms resolved in less than 24 hours. A TIA is usually thought of as indicating the person is at high risk for a stroke in which permanent damage will occur. The TIA is a warning sign that urgent measures are needed to prevent a stroke and determine the cause of the symptoms. Aspirin or other blood thinners are usually prescribed for treatment as tests are being done to find the cause.

The majority of ischemic events are caused by blood clots or other conditions in which blood flow is interrupted, although about 20% of cases are due to bleeding within the brain. Known risk factors for stroke and TIA include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and excess alcohol intake, so these should be treated as necessary. Tests to locate blood clots will include studies of the blood vessels in the legs, neck, and heart as you may have done. If serious blockage due to a clot is found in a major vessel, treatment may be needed. If nothing definite shows on these tests, less common conditions can be investigated on blood testing. A neurologist and possibly a hematologist are the specialists who are usually directing treatment of such cases.

An MRI test is usually done to get a look at the brain anatomy and clarify the diagnosis. Since you are having ongoing problems for several months, this test would be helpful, and a neurologist should be helping in your care. There are excellent rehabilitation methods for helping victims of stroke regain function, and your doctor can direct you in this regard.

HELPFUL WEBSITES:

  • http://www.ninds.nih.gov/
  • http://www.stroke.org/index.html

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