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What's the Difference Between a Stroke and a Mini Stroke?

June 2, 2017

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and long-term disability among Americans.  The prospect of suffering a stroke is frightening.  There is rarely advance warning and the level of severity and lasting complications is unpredictable from one case to the next.  In large part, the impact left behind depends on the particular type of stroke suffered.  The most commonly occurring type of stroke is ischemic, resulting from a blocked blood vessel and often causing permanent impairments.  However, what many call a “mini stroke” has much of the same presentation as an ischemic stroke but without the long-term consequences.

What is a Mini Stroke?

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is commonly referred to as a mini stroke.  When this occurs, the blood vessel is blocked by a blood clot only briefly.  During the attack, sufferers will often experience the same symptoms as a regular stroke.  These can include numbness, weakness, and speech and vision difficulties.  Just as is the case with any stroke, patients are urged to remember the acronym FAST:

  • F: Face drooping
  • A: Arm weakness
  • S: Speech difficulty
  • T: Time to call 9-1-1

What makes a Mini Stroke Different?

While the symptoms may be largely the same, there are some key differences between a mini stroke and regular stroke.  Because the blockage during a mini stroke is temporary, symptoms are brief, usually only lasting a few minutes.  In some cases, they may persist for up to 24 hours. 

Unlike a regular stroke, TIAs do not result in brain damage or permanent disability.   However, it is impossible to know which form of stroke may be occurring at the moment that symptoms appear.  For this reason, it is imperative that patients do not attempt to wait symptoms out, but instead seek emergency medical treatment as soon as possible.  Furthermore, those who experience a TIA are at a heightened risk of suffering a subsequent stroke, a situation that occurs in 1 out 3 mini stroke patients.  This risk is particularly high within the first 48 hours, making medical care and monitoring crucial.

If you or a loved one experience any of the hallmark symptoms associated with a stroke or mini stroke, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room.  Regardless of the type of stroke, early intervention is key to protecting long-term health, and in some cases may be life-saving.

Mini Stroke Different