What Is a Ministroke?

A ministroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a form of stroke that blocks blood flow to the brain for a short period of time. A TIA is caused by a blood clot, similar to ischemic strokes. With a ministroke, the clot breaks up on its own, which is a key difference between the two; ischemic strokes require medical intervention to dissolve the clot and get blood flowing to the brain again. Ministrokes also do not cause brain cells to die, unlike ischemic or hemorrhagic — bleeding in the brain — strokes which can cause severe damage in just a few minutes.

Are Ministrokes Serious?

While they may not cause the same level of damage, ministrokes are still serious conditions. And even though they don’t require medication to stop them, it’s still vital to seek medical care after a suspected ministroke. People who experience TIAs are at higher risk of having a stroke. More than a third of people who have a ministroke have a stroke within a year, and up to 15% have one within three months.

Can Ministrokes Be Prevented?

The leading risk factor for stroke of any kind, including a ministroke, is high blood pressure. Other risk factors include heart disease, high cholesterol and family history of stroke.

The best way to prevent strokes of any kind is through a healthy lifestyle. Eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco products can help reduce your risk of stroke. It’s also important to check your blood pressure regularly, as high blood pressure often does not cause symptoms.

[Learn your risk of stroke.]

Another important step in prevention is knowing the signs of stroke and ministroke, so you know when it’s time to seek care.

Ministroke Signs & Symptoms

All of the symptoms of ministroke are also associated with an ischemic stroke. If you or your loved one shows any signs of stroke, even for only a few minutes, seek care immediately.

Signs of a stroke or ministroke include:

  • Drooping, numbness or weakness in one side of the face
  • Numbness or weakness in one arm
  • Speech that is slurred or difficult to understand
  • Sudden vision trouble in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination

When and Where to Seek Care

The minute symptoms appear, call 911 and report that you suspect a stroke. Don’t drive to the emergency room; providers can start stroke treatment in an ambulance on the way to a hospital’s emergency department.

Even if your stroke is a ministroke, treatment can alleviate symptoms and help you prevent strokes in the future.