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Thursday, May 9, 2013

I had another TIA (Transient ischemic attack)

When I have a TIA the vision in my left eye is affected.

If you are here because you have had a serious visual disturbance, if, at anytime, you decide you may have had a TIA, get to emergency. Quit reading and get to the hospital. You must consult a doctor as soon as possible.
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The first time I had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), I watched with a mixture of horror and amazement as the vision in my left eye slowly disappeared. At first, I thought both eyes were affected; I thought I was going blind. But, it was almost immediately obvious that only my left eye was affected.

I closed my right eye and watched a very dark grey curtain with a rather jagged edge slowly rising in my left eye. The curtain was completely opaque. When about 95 percent of my vision was blocked the rising curtain stopped and began to recede.

As the curtain receded, the opaque dark grey turned somewhat translucent in places. The curtain was breaking up. Soon what remained of the tattered curtain had dropped to the bottom of my vision field and disappeared; My vision was restored. The entire episode took a minute -- maybe two. I went to emerg at the local hospital. I felt like no one would believe me when I told them what had happened. I felt like this could be an event fit for an episode of House on TV. It wasn't.

The doctors in emerg diagnosed my problem as a TIA. TIAs can be thought of as mini strokes. They may last a minute or two, sometimes as long as an hour. According to the Mayo Clinic, an extremely long one can last as long as a day but if the disturbance lasts too long, one has most likely suffered a stroke and not a TIA.

The signs and symptoms of both a TIA and a stroke in the early stages are very similar, but a stroke leaves the brain with lasting damage while a TIA doesn't or at least the damage is not immediately evident. Both come on suddenly and hit the victim with dramatic and very frightening affects. The TIA disturbances disappear quickly but one should still go to emerg to be checked out by a doctor.

A TIA is a warning that you are in danger of suffering a serious and debilitating stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 people suffering a transient ischemic attack eventually has a stroke. About half of these strokes occur within a year of the attack. See a doctor!

Some of the signs of a TIA are:

  • Sudden double vision
  • Sudden blindness in one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination
  • Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg. This often only affects one side of the body.

I have had at least three TIAs. All have been related to a serious heart arrhythmia. Today, my heart is in a constant state of flutter. This increases my chances of suffering a stroke -- a brain crippling stroke. Strokes are blood clots that travel to the brain, blocking off the all-important blood supply to a section of the brain. To prevent this from happening, I take an anticoagulant: Pradax.

It is quite possible that thanks to Pradax my clots break-up quickly, dispersing into my blood stream. The poorly formed clots no sooner block the blood flow in my brain than they begin disintegrating.

Transient ischemic attacks may last less than a minute (like mine) or, according to the Mayo Clinic, as long as a day. Most signs and symptoms disappear within an hour. The signs and symptoms of TIA resemble those found in the early stages of a stroke and may include:
  • Sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, typically on one side of your body
  • Slurred or garbled speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Sudden blindness in one or both eyes or double vision
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
After your first attack your condition must be evaluated. This is very important. I had both a CT scan and an MRI performed on my brain. While TIAs themselves are not dangerous, always keep in mind that after an attack one is at increased risk of stroke.

Medline Plus warns:

TIAs are a warning sign that you may have a true stroke in the coming days or months. More than ten percent of people who have a TIA will have a stroke within three months. Half of these strokes happen during the 48 hours after a TIA. The stroke may occur that same day or at a later time.

As I said at the beginning of this post, if you found this because you are seeking information on TIAs, having just suffered a stroke-like event yourself, stop reading and get to a hospital.

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