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TIA- The Mini Stroke: August 11, 2011

Gerry Combs suffered a series of strokes as a young woman.

“Three…and on of them I didn’t know I had, until I went to check up for the second one and they tell you did you know you had another stroke? I said no I didn’t, honey.”

In the years that passed, Gerry learned she’s susceptible to mini strokes.

“The more fancy term is TIA or transient ischemic attack. Those tend to be very short spells - a matter of minutes,” says Dr. Ross Levine, Medical Director of Vascular Neurology with Lee Memorial Health System.

People will sometimes complain of dizzy spells, then forget them once the episode passes.

“By its definition, a transient ischemic attack, the patient returns to their baseline,” says Dr. Levine.

But healthcare professionals are paying lose attention to these TIAs or mini strokes, because they often lead to bigger things.

“If a person comes in, for example, with a little mini stroke or TIA, if we do an MRI scan on that patient, on their brain, and if its abnormal, that patient has substantially higher risk for a bad stroke in the next 90 days,” says Dr. Levine.

TIA symptoms mimic those of a stroke, affecting vision, speech or balance.

“Where a person might have one eye go blind or the other eye go blind, they might have weakness in one side of their body for instance their face or arm or leg on one side, they might have numbness on one side,” says Dr. Levine.

Gerry can look back and recognize the warning signs.

“I would get in my car, and I would drive and one of my eyes would kind of hurt.”

She’s now taken this knowledge and put it to work for her.

“Yes you’re always at risk, so I’m on three medicines from my doctor I’m supposed to take every day.”

Knowing her stroke risk may be just the thing to keep her stroke free.