What is a Ministroke?
Ministroke, also known as transient ischemic attack, is a medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain stops temporarily due to a blood clot. The symptoms of ministroke resolve in a short period of time that is usually 24 hours. The symptoms resolve when the clot breaks up and moves on. It does not cause damage to the brain cells as the event does not last long.
Most people do not seek treatment for ministroke as the symptoms pass away quickly. But, it is observed that more than one-third of people who do not receive treatment for ministroke have a major stroke in a year.(1)
According to the American Stroke Association, it is important not to ignore ministroke as it can be a sign of an upcoming major stroke.(6) Therefore, knowing the symptoms and getting help can help in preventing life-threatening events.
Symptoms of Ministroke
The symptoms of ministroke depend on the part of the brain where the blood flow is affected.(2)
The symptoms to look for in ministroke are as follows:
- Drooping of the eye and mouth to one side and the smile of the person is affected.
- There may be weakness and numbness in the arm, making it difficult for the person to raise the arm.
- The speech may be slurred or garbled.
If someone is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek emergency help as soon as possible, as these are the symptoms of major stroke as well.
The person may also present the following symptoms:
- Numbness and weakness
- Sudden confusion
- Vision problem
- Difficulty in understanding what others are saying
- Difficulty in walking
- Bad headache
- Loss of consciousness
- Coordination problem
The symptoms of ministroke last for a few minutes to a few hours and disappear completely in 24 hours.
What Causes Ministroke?
Ministroke occurs when the oxygen supply to the brain is affected, which can be due to the following reasons:
- Atherosclerosis occurs due to the deposit of fats in the arteries making them narrow.
- Blood clots due to cardiovascular diseases, irregular heart rhythm and heart disease.
- Air bubbles in the bloodstream.
- An embolism or blood clot from any other part of the body.
Risk Factors for Ministroke
There are a few factors that may increase the risk of suffering from ministroke:(3)
- Being 55 years and above
- Family history of stroke
- Smoking tobacco
- Having diabetes
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Low exercise levels
- Having high cholesterol diet
- Overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- Atrial fibrillation
How to Diagnose Ministroke?
To diagnose ministroke, a doctor would take a brief history of the symptoms experienced which include the duration, severity, family history and may carry out neurological examination that may include memory and coordination testing.
The tests that are used in the diagnosis of ministroke are:
- Blood test to check the clotting ability and cholesterol level
- An ECG for checking the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart
- X-ray of the chest
- MRI scan to identify brain damage
- CT scan to reveal signs of an aneurysm, bleeding, or any changes in the brain
How is Ministroke Treated?
The treatment of ministroke depends on its cause.(4)
Medications are prescribed by the doctor to prevent the risk of blood clots. These medications include:
- Anti-platelet drugs that prevent clotting
- Anticoagulants that may also help in preventing clotting
- High blood pressure medications
- Medication that may help in managing cholesterol level
- Drugs that regulate irregular heart rhythm
All the above drugs can have adverse effects and should never be taken without a doctor’s consultation.
Surgery may be recommended to remove any blockage if present or to remove a part of a damaged artery, which is called carotid endarterectomy.
Lifestyle Measures to Prevent Ministroke
There are numerous lifestyle modifications that can be helpful in preventing ministroke, which include:(5)
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating nutritious diet by eating fresh fruits and vegetables
- Managing bodyweight
Following treatment plan for diabetes, hypertension, or any other condition.
The symptoms of ministroke are similar to that of actual stroke. The complications of ministroke clear in a short period of time but can be a sign of impending stroke.
If anyone experiences any of the symptoms of stroke or ministroke should seek emergency medical care immediately. Understanding the symptoms of ministroke can make you prepared or help in preventing stroke.