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A transient ischemic attack, also called a mini-stroke, can strike at any time, with no warning. These attacks are frightening, even though the effects don't last long. Here's what all seniors need to know about them.
What is a transient ischemic attack?
A transient ischemic attack is a stroke that lasts less than 24 hours. Usually, it will only last for a few minutes. A blood clot forms in your brain, just like in a regular stroke, only it dissolves by itself without causing any permanent damage.
What are the risk factors?
There are lots of things that increase the chance of someone having a stroke. Age is a major factor. Once you reach 55 years old, your chance of having a stroke doubles every decade. Women are also more likely than men to have a stroke.
High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, or being overweight can also increase your risk.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are the same as with a regular stroke, they just don't last as long. You may notice numbness along one side of your body, you may feel dizzy and lose your balance, or you may feel confused. Sudden vision loss in one or both of your eyes is also a sign of a transient ischemic attack.
Do you need to go to the hospital?
Most transient ischemic attacks only last for a few minutes, so by the time you get the hospital, you'll be fine. However, you still need to go. The doctors need to know why you had the attack, since it is often a warning sign that a bigger stroke is coming, and you may still have time to prevent it. They will perform a variety of tests, including a head CT or brain MRI, an angiogram, and heart monitoring tests.
What about your eyes?
Once you get out of the hospital, you will need to make an appointment with your optometrist, even though the vision loss associated with transient ischemic attacks isn't permanent. The optometrist will look inside your eye, and see if there are any clots in the veins in the back of your eye. They will also rule out any other possible causes of your temporary vision loss, just in case it wasn't related to the mini-stroke. Visit with an eye doctor at a clinic like Atlantic Ophthalmology for more information.
Transient ischemic attacks don't last long, but you still need to take them seriously. They are often a warning sign that a stroke is on the way, so visit the hospital and your optometrist if you suffer from one.