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How does a mini stroke feel?

TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)

A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. The clot usually dissolves on its own or gets dislodged, and the symptoms usually last less than five minutes.

While a TIA doesn’t cause permanent damage, it’s a “warning stroke” signaling a possible full-blown stroke ahead. When you first notice symptoms, get help immediately, even if symptoms go away.

Risk Factors and TIA

Anyone can have a TIA, but the risk increases with age.

Stroke rates double every 10 years after age 55. If you’ve previously had a stroke, pay careful attention for signs of a TIA because that could signal a second stroke in your future.

Common warning signals include sudden onset of:

  • Weakness, numbness or paralysis on one side of your body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Blindness in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache with no apparent cause

Major risk factors for a TIA or stroke include:

illustration of a translucent person showing their brain, right internal carotid artery, right vertebral artery, and right common carotid artery

doctor and patient follow up

Diagnosis and Treatment

TIAs’ temporary symptoms, which can last from only a few minutes up to 24 hours, make diagnosis challenging. Stroke symptoms that disappear in under an hour need emergency assessment to help prevent a full-blown stroke.

Get help immediately if you think you could be having a TIA. Ideally your comprehensive evaluation should be done within 24 hours of when symptoms began. Here is what you can expect:

  • Assessment for symptoms and medical history
  • Imaging of the blood vessels in the head and neck
  • Other testing such as head CT, angiography and MRI

Once TIA is diagnosed, a follow-up visit with a neurologist is recommended to assess your risk of future stroke.

ambulance and hospital emergency entrance

Why Getting Quick Stroke Treatment is Important

Stroke symptoms, even if they disappear within an hour, need emergency assessment

A new American Heart Association scientific statement discusses rapid evaluation for transient ischemic attack (TIA) due to high risk of future stroke. The medical experts behind the statement share valuable insight below.

Tracy E. Madsen, MD, PhD talking on a video call from her office

Tracy E. Madsen, MD, PhD talking on a video call from her office

Dr. Amin talking on a video call in an office setting

Warning of Future Strokes

The immediate consequences of TIA are fairly benign. But these “warning strokes” often foreshadow a full-blown stroke. The statistics tell the story:


people in the United States experience a TIA every year.

Nearly 1 in 5

people who have a suspected TIA will have a stroke within 90 days, and 2 in 5, when given the appropriate scan, will learn that they actually had a stroke instead of a TIA.

TIA symptoms

can mimic other neurological symptoms, so it’s best to get a detailed evaluation by a health care professional.

What is a Pre-Stroke?

Did you know that approximately 1 in 3 people who have a pre-stroke will eventually have a stroke? Additionally, half of these individuals have a stroke within 1 year of the initial pre-stroke or mini stroke. However, being able to identify a mini stroke can help you to prevent a massive stroke from happening in the future. In order to do so, however, one must know what a pre-stroke/mini stroke is and how to identify it.

Pre-strokes or mini strokes are the common terms used to describe a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Unlike a full blown stroke, a TIA only lasts a few minutes and does not cause permanent damage. Nevertheless it is a warning sign that a possible stroke may be coming in the future. In some cases, this may be as soon as hours or days later, or as late as years later.

cartoon of woman unable to speak properly indicating a stroke

Although strokes and ministrokes last for different amounts of time, they do have similar symptoms. Many symptoms of a ministroke mirror the early symptoms of an actual stroke. These include:

  • Weakness and/or numbness in the face, arms, or legs, generally on one side of the body
  • Slurred or garbled speech
  • Difficulty understanding others
  • Blindness or double vision in one or both eyes
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of balance and/or coordination

The reason why a TIA and a stroke have similar symptoms is because they have similar causes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood supply to a part of the brain. During a TIA, the same thing happens. However in the case of a TIA, this blockage is only temporary, which is why you would only see symptoms for a matter of minutes. These blots may develop in the brain or elsewhere in the body. When they develop elsewhere in the body, it is only a matter of time before they circulate to the brain.

Even though these symptoms of a ministroke are usually short-lived and generally only last for about 1-5 minutes, it is important to be seen by a doctor immediately for a prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent a full blown stroke. You can expect your doctor to perform a physical examination that evaluates your speech, eye movements, reflexes, strength, and sensory system. They may then perform additional diagnostic tests such as a carotid ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, echocardiogram, and/or arteriogram.

surgery for carotid artery disease

These tests allow your doctor to determine the cause of a TIA in order to determine the best course of treatment for preventing a larger stroke later on. In some cases, treatment for a TIA may be as simple as taking an antiplatelet medication that decreases the risk of your blood platelets from sticking together and/or taking an anticoagulant, which prevents the blood from clotting. In other cases, more invasive treatments such as surgery to remove papertyper arterial plaque or angioplasty to open a clogged artery, may need to be performed.

Both TIAs and ischemic strokes can be potentially prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Even if you are predisposed due to family history, age, or biological sex, living a healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk. In fact, many risk factors for ministrokes and strokes are things you can control and lifestyle factors that you can change.

Headshot of Premier Neurology & Wellness Center Provider, Dr. kashouty

Dr. Kashouty, a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), practices general neurology with fellowship trained specialization in clinical neurophysiology. Dr. Kashouty finds the form and function of the nerves and muscles the most interesting part of neurology, which is what led him to specialize in neurophysiology with more emphasis on neuromuscular conditions. He treats all neurological diseases, but his main focus is to treat and manage headaches, movement disorders and neuromuscular diseases.

What Does Having a Stroke Feel Like?

Strokes are a leading cause of death for American adults, and they are also the top cause of disability. Knowing stroke symptoms is important, because ignoring symptoms and delaying treatment can lead to worse outcomes if a stroke happens. It’s crucial to act fast when someone is having a stroke.

Pay attention to how you’re feeling, so you can get medical help quickly when needed.

First off, what is a stroke?

The heart is continuously pumping blood through the body. This oxygenated blood also reaches the brain, which keeps the brain functioning correctly. If a blockage or break happens to a blood vessel, blood supply is cut off and blood doesn’t reach specific areas of the body. A blockage or break in a blood vessel connected to the brain would cause a brain attack, also known as a stroke.

Do people experience signs of a stroke before they happen?

Symptoms of a stroke come on suddenly, so it’s crucial to move fast if you think a stroke is happening. You may not have a lot of warning before a stroke.

  • A sudden and severe headache
  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Numbness and drooping on one side of the face
  • Numbness and weakness on one side of the body
  • Speech difficulty
  • Trouble understanding what others are saying or confusion
  • Vision difficulty affecting one or both eyes

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 right away. You may experience just one or a couple of these symptoms. Aside from the headache, stroke symptoms aren’t painful. For this reason, it’s easy to ignore potentially serious symptoms.

The most important thing to remember is that even though most of the symptoms aren’t painful, they come on very suddenly and they’re very extreme.

How long do you have symptoms before a stroke?

Strokes can vary in intensity from mild to massive. A mini stroke is called a transient ischemic attack. With this type of stroke, the blood flow to the brain is interrupted briefly, which causes the typical stroke symptoms. But then the blood flow resumes, and the symptoms go away. This usually happens within a few minutes, but it could also take a couple of hours.

Mini stroke symptoms can come and go as the blood ebbs and flows around the partial blockage. If the stroke is moderate to severe, the symptoms will last more than 24 hours, and some symptoms never go away.

What does a massive stroke feel like?

Everyone’s experience of a stroke is unique. Patients may have all of the symptoms or just some of them.

The main thing to remember is that even a massive stroke doesn’t involve pain aside from the sudden headache. The numbness and weakness on one side of the body don’t hurt, the vision problems aren’t painful and the trouble with balancing and walking isn’t painful. Some people experience cognitive issues, suddenly being unable to speak and understand speech, but this isn’t universal, and it doesn’t involve discomfort.

What does it feel like after a stroke?

After having a stroke, patients have to manage both physical and emotional symptoms. Being unable to function independently is usually a devastating blow. It’s common for patients to feel some or all of these feelings:

As recovery progresses, it’s not unusual for patients to have personality changes. Depending on which parts of the brain were subjected to lack of oxygen, patients may have mild or severe cognitive decline.

They also may need to relearn how to speak and perform basic motor skills. Anxiety is also common in stroke survivors. Patients may be afraid of having another stroke, or they may feel scared about functioning independently. Frustration and anger can continue to be common emotions in stroke survivors too.

Bottom line, a fast response is crucial if stroke symptoms suddenly appear in you or a loved one. Seek immediate medical attention. The faster a stroke is treated, the better the outcome.

Learn about the stroke care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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