Mini stroke is said to be a 'warning stroke', which says that one needs to wake up and start taking care of their health. But, before we go into the details of what causes a mini stroke, it is important to understand the condition itself. Mini stroke occurs when one part of the brain does not receive blood flow for a brief period. This lack of blood flow occurs for less than 30 minutes and leads to symptoms of stroke. Let us understand what ischemia means and the reasons that lead to a mini stroke.
What is a Mini Stroke?
The continuous blood flow to the brain provides it with a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients. This helps keep each and every brain cell and neuron nourished at all times. There are hundreds of blood vessels in the brain that transport oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the brain. When these blood vessels are blocked due to cholesterol plaques or blood clots, it leads to disruption in the blood supply. In the end, certain brain areas do not receive oxygen and nutrients for some time.
This condition is called ischemia where the brain cells are starved and can no longer function normally. This leads to a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). As the blood flow to the brain reduces, it impairs the functioning of the brain cells. This leads to problems like speaking, moving hands or legs, fainting spells, etc. The symptoms may last for a few minutes to a few hours. Within 24 hours, all the symptoms seem to go away.
Now, coming back to what leads to a mini stroke. The causes of mini stroke are similar to ischemic stroke. A mini stroke occurs when there is temporary lack of oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells. This occurs when the blood vessels are severely narrowed or blocked due to embolism or thrombosis. When a blood clot or tissues from other body organs move through the blood vessels into the neck or brain, it is called embolism. Thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms within the brain or neck. This blood clot does not break away easily just like the blood clot caused by embolism. A plaque build up can lead to blockage or narrowing of the artery called stenosis.
Thus, the main causes of a mini stroke include embolism, thrombosis and stenosis. Embolism develops in case of atrial fibrillation, irregular heart rhythms, etc. People with sickle-cell disease, mitral valve prolapse, rheumatic heart disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, HIV/AIDS, syphilis, etc. are more prone to develop embolism. Thrombosis and stenosis both occur when an area within the brain is damaged. This damage may occur due to atherosclerosis, plaque, etc. These conditions cause hardening of the artery walls, loss of elasticity and decrease in blood flow.
What are the Signs of a Mini Stroke?
It is important to know the signs of a mini stroke, so that one can seek immediate medical help. The mini stroke symptoms depend on the part of brain that is affected. This causes temporary loss of voice control, vertigo, double vision, speech difficulty, inability to write or use hands, etc. Some of the common signs of mini stroke are as follows -
- Sudden, severe headache without any reason
- Sudden difficulty in walking, loss of balance, coordination and feeling of dizziness
- A person may develop vision problems in one or both eyes
- The person becomes confused and has trouble in speaking or understanding things
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs mostly on one side of the body
Can a Mini Stroke Cause Memory Loss?
The lack of oxygen and nutrients for a brief time period causes brain cell starvation. This reduces their ability to function. Thus, in some cases it may lead to temporary memory loss. Patients may not remember who they are, what are they doing in a particular place and will become confused about their surroundings. Some even have difficulty in understanding their first language for a short time.
Can a Mini Stroke Cause Dementia?
A mini stroke can lead to brain damage to some extent. This causes memory loss and it may even trigger the onset of dementia, especially in an elderly patient suffering from a silent mini stroke.
The treatment for a mini stroke includes use of blood thinners that prevent clotting. Other than that, the patient will be given treatment for the underlying cause. The patient will be advised to take hypolipidemic drugs, hypoglycemic drugs, antiarrythmic drugs, etc. to treat the underlying cause of mini stroke.
It is very important seek immediate treatment for a mini stroke. This is because, most of the patients suffer from a full-blown stroke attack within 3 months of a mini stroke. Hope the above information was useful for you in understanding the causes of a transient ischemic attack.