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Not so transient – scientists discover long-term effects of mini-strokes

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Posted July 21, 2016

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), usually called a mini-stroke, is a situation at which one part of the brain temporarily lacks blood. As is mentioned in the definition, it does not cause permanent damage, or at least that is what scientists used to think. A new study from the University of Birmingham revealed that there may be long-term effects as well.

Mini-stroke patients consult doctors much more frequently for fatigue, cognitive impairment and anxiety or depression than people of their age, who do not have history of this condition. Image credit: Bill Branson, NIH via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Mini-stroke patients consult doctors much more frequently for fatigue, cognitive impairment and anxiety or depression than people of their age, who do not have history of this condition. Image credit: Bill Branson, NIH via Wikimedia, Public Domain

These effects are easily noticed because mini-stroke patients consult doctors more frequently for such issues as fatigue (increased risk by 43%), psychological impairment, such as anxiety or depression (increased risk by 26%), and cognitive impairment (increased risk by 45%). The problem is that these risks are not universally recognized and possibilities of long-term effects are mostly overlooked. Scientists say that doctors should be aware of this knowledge and should support patients more in their rehabilitation.

The symptoms of the transient ischemic attack are speech and visual disturbance, and numbness or weakness in the face, arms and legs which usually resolve within a few minutes to 24 hours. Although other long-term effects are mostly overlooked, doctors do recognize the increased danger of having a full stroke after having a mini-stroke. And this is what doctors usually focus on – their guidelines are focused around alleviating risk of having a full stroke with lifestyle changes, additional therapies and so on.

Scientists used data from The Health Improvement Network database, which covers approximately 6% of the UK population and found that, in comparison with healthy individuals of the same age, mini-stroke patients much more often consulted their doctors for fatigue, cognitive impairment and anxiety or depression.

Dr Grace Turner, one of the authors of the study, said: “These findings present an urgent need to revisit clinical guidelines for TIA. They can no longer be considered ‘transient’ or ‘temporary’, there is a potential long term impact which could affect quality of life. In some cases people may not be able to return to work, or participate in social activities, and there is a very real impact on their quality of life”.

This is the first study of its kind to include such a vast amount of data and a control group. However, some more research needs to be done. Scientists say that now it is important to research the effects of increased care for the patients of TIA, who are reporting long-term residual effects of the illness.

Source: birmingham.ac.uk

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