Benjamin J. Makamson, D.O.
Lee C. Ferguson, D.O.
Michael B. Hogan, M.D.
Ralph B. Pfeiffer, Jr., M.D.

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The Main Differences in Ischemic Strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks.png

Is it a stroke or a mini-stroke? Knowing the difference may be harder than it seems. Ischemic Strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks - more commonly known as a “mini-stroke” - look and act almost identical. They share similar causes, symptoms, and risk factors, making it difficult for even medical professionals to tell them apart.

 

So what’s the difference between an ischemic stroke and a transient ischemic attack (TIA), and is one really better than the other? Read on to find out. 

 

Ischemic Stroke

 

Almost 75% of all strokes are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage in the brain’s artery causes blood flow to be restricted to an area of the brain. As brain tissue dies, critical functions like speech, memory, and muscle movement are impaired. An ischemic stroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible. 

 

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

 

A TIA is also caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Unlike an ischemic stroke, a TIA is temporary and resolves on its own without medical intervention. Blood flow typically returns to normal within a few minutes and symptoms resolve completely within 24 hours. TIA can cause permanent damage but typically does not have permanent symptoms. It can also lead to long-term cognitive problems including increased risk for dementia.

 

Stroke and TIA Symptoms

 

The short-term symptoms of an ischemic stroke and a TIA are very similar and can include:

 

  • Muscle weakness

  • Numbness or Tingling

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech

  • Loss of coordination

  • Drooling

  • Drooping of one side of the face

  • Confusion

 

It’s important to note that it’s impossible to tell the difference between an ischemic stroke and a TIA from initial symptoms alone. Any combination of the above symptoms requires immediate medical attention. 

 

Stroke and TIA Prognosis

A stroke is a dangerous emergency that can cause permanent disability and even death. Most strokes can be successfully treated if diagnosed early, though most survivors suffer long-term consequences such as problems with speech and memory.

 

Because it resolves on its own very quickly, a TIA does not cause lasting brain damage or disability. That being said, a TIA is a warning sign you should never ignore. They often foreshadow future strokes, and about 12 percent of patients with a TIA die within a year. 

 

Treatment & Management

 

The treatment for an ischemic stroke involves removing the blockage through clot-busting medications or surgical intervention. Once treated, survivors must typically undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation to combat long-term disabilities. Stroke prevention measures including medications, regular testing, imaging studies, and surgery can reduce your risk of future strokes. 

 

TIA symptoms resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention. TIA patients will need to undergo a full medical evaluation to identify and manage any stroke risk factors. Treatment plans typically include medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lifestyle changes, and surgical vessel repair if needed.

 

If you are at risk or have suffered a stroke, the expert physicians at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help. We offer detailed stroke prevention and management treatments that can determine and reduce your risk of future strokes. Contact us today! 

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