Mini Strokes: What are they? Mini strokes are also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) and are caused by a temporary interruption to the blood supply feeding the brain. Unlike a full stroke, the symptoms of a mini stroke normally disappear within 24 hours, but since around 20% of those who experience a mini stroke subsequently go on to suffer a full stroke, the seriousness of the condition should never be underestimated.
Mini strokes: what are they and what causes them? Transient ischemic attacks are normally caused by tiny blood clots or pieces of fatty material breaking away from artery walls and traveling into minor blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain. A constant blood supply to all areas of the brain is vital for ensuring normal brain function and any interruption can be catastrophic. Brain cells stop functioning when they become temporarily disconnected from their supply of oxygen and nutrients and the patient will immediately experience the symptoms of a mini stroke.
The main reason for a mini stroke occurring is due to a small blood clot forming in the brain, a condition known as thrombosis, and a narrowing of the blood vessels normally precedes the formation of blood clots. A build up of cholesterol can cause narrowing of the blood vessels, and this cause and effect is similar to that seen in a patient suffering from cardiac problems. Blood clots can also originate in the heart before breaking free and traveling through the body to other major organs, typically the brain.
The other main cause of mini strokes is a burst blood vessel in the brain resulting from a weakness in the blood vessel wall. A burst blood vessel, or aneurysm, causes bleeding in the brain, which can lead to a mini stroke.
In most instances of a mini stroke, the blood clot that causes it is only small and either quickly breaks up, or other blood vessels nearby are able to compensate. As a result, the interruption in oxygen supply to the brain only lasts for a few minutes and the effects of a mini stroke are normally short lived, which is why the patient is able to recover within a short time.
Whilst in many patients a mini stroke occurs for no apparent reason, there are known to be certain risk factors that increase the chances of having a mini stroke or stroke. These include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, being overweight, and a lack of exercise. Patients with diabetes are also in a high-risk category.
In the event of a mini stroke, it is vital to seek medical advice as soon as possible. Sometimes the tell-tale symptoms of a mini stroke are actually caused by other conditions, but a brain scan carried out within three hours can usually offer a definitive diagnosis.
Due to the dangers of more strokes occurring, patients who have experienced a mini stroke will normally be kept in hospital for observation. Anticoagulant drug treatments can be given to dissolve any existing blood clots and reduce the likelihood of further blood clots forming.