don’t discount the mini-stroke

mini strokeTrue Story: One day, my sister needed to go to her bookkeepers office to check on something. Jan, her bookkeeper was on the phone with a customer when she arrived so my sister waited patiently.

As she waited, she noticed that Jan wasn’t making any sense on the phone. Her words were slurred and were not coming together as proper sentences. Jan looked at my sister with what appeared to be panic in her eyes. Jan would later tell my sister that she was confused and that she knew she wasn’t making sense but didn’t know why or what to do.

My sister calmly took the phone, quickly and professionally ended the call and immediately called 911.

Jan said not to worry and that this has happened a few times before and it will pass. Jan had no idea that she was having a mini-stroke.

Thankfully my sister did. When the paramedics arrived, they told her that she was right to call them.

I had never heard of a mini-stroke until my sister told me of this event.
Have you?

What is a mini-stroke?

A mini-stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) happens when a clot stops blood flowing to the brain for a short time. The block is temporary (transient) and, unlike an actual stroke, a TIA doesn’t generally kill brain tissue.

The symptoms of a TIA are almost the same as a full stroke but, because the duration of the symptoms is relatively short (a few minutes to a couple hours), many people don’t even realize that they have experienced a mini-stroke.

Symptoms of a Mini-Stroke

  1. Motor dysfunction. This could range from a clumsiness of the hands and fingers to trouble walking or moving the arms.
  2. Weakness in the face, arms or legs generally only on one side of the body.
  3. Trouble speaking (Dysphasia). Trouble recalling, saying or understanding words and/or trouble stringing words together coherently.

    This is what was happening to Jan!

  4. Temporary blindness in one or both eyes. Vision becomes suddenly dimmed or blurry. This can last for seconds or minutes.

    This one actually happened once to my boyfriend as he was driving. He pulled over and, because it was sudden and erratic, another driver pulled over to see what was wrong and my boyfriend told him to call 911. His blood pressure was through the roof and the paramedics rushed him to the hospital for fear that he would stroke out. Thankfully, he didn’t. I realize now that he had a TIA.

  5. Dizziness, vertigo and lack of coordination. Now you don’t want to be running to the ER every time you feel lightheaded but pay attention to these symptoms when there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for them.

What is most important to know about a mini-stroke is that it is an emergency. Even though a TIA doesn’t lead to permanent brain damage, it can be an indication that you are at risk of having a full stroke.

A TIA is a warning and it’s urgent that you tell your doctor if you think you’ve experienced one. Tests can be done to find out if further treatment or medication is necessary and, with your doctor’s help, you can take steps to reducing your risk factors.

Note: My boyfriend has been on blood pressure medication ever since his TIA. Medication that will keep his blood pressure under control and help to stave off a full stroke in the future.

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Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

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