TIA and Minor Stroke

Residual symptoms after transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

The symptoms of a TIA are similar to that of stroke, but they may only last a short while, certainly no more than 24 hours. If symptoms last longer than 24 hours but are mild usually this would be defined as a ‘minor stroke’. There was some confusion amongst some people we interviewed about whether they had actually had a stroke or TIA. The terms ‘TIA’, ‘minor stroke’ and ‘mini stroke’ were used by people to describe what they had experienced, based on the diagnosis they had been given by their GP or consultant.
Many of the people we interviewed recovered from their TIA or minor stroke and did not experience any continuing symptoms afterwards.
Some people said that although they were not left with any physical symptoms, that the experience of having a TIA had left them feeling vulnerable or that they lost their confidence for a while.
However, some people were left with some residual symptoms that lasted a few weeks, and some people continued to experience some symptoms for a while afterwards. Commonly these included arm and limb weakness or numbness, slurred speech, memory problems, confusion and visual difficulties. In most cases the symptoms improved over time. Some people experienced just one residual symptom, whereas other people had a combination of different ones.
Some people whose initial symptoms included slurring of speech or forgetting how to speak normally found that afterwards they still had some problems. Some were offered speech therapy but not everyone was given this opportunity and some felt it would have been helpful.
As well as having speech problems, some people found that their short term memory was affected after the TIA or minor stroke, and for some people this meant they could sometimes become confused, not remember words, having difficulty with money or numbers, or just have a general feeling that things had not quite gone back to normal. For example, John said that he just felt that sometimes he wasn’t quite as articulate as he had been previously but he has no lasting physical symptoms and he continues his life as before. A few people took part in interviews with their partner because they still had some problems with their memory.
Some people continued to experience a sense of numbness or weakness in their hand, arm or leg afterwards and a few said it meant they were now less mobile than they had been previously. Sometimes people experienced occasional feelings like pins and needles, but weren’t always sure whether this was because of the TIA/minor stroke, or just normal pins and needles that you get after lying on your arm in a funny position. Physiotherapy helped some people to become more flexible and mobile again. Brian (Interview 08) said he now has a slight weakness in his left arm and leg but feels ‘it’s nothing to complain about really’. Like Yvonne (above) some people said that they still felt tired for some while afterwards.
Most people who had experienced visual disturbance recovered completely afterwards. One man said his eye-ball coordination was not what it was, and another was told he must no longer drive the car because his sight had been affected and was no longer good enough for driving.
Two people said that they had been told that they had some residual brain damage. This came as a surprise to both of them because they thought that brain damage would be associated with a more major stroke.
A number of people said that having a TIA or minor stroke had affected their emotions and that they were now more prone to becoming upset about trivial things, or that they sometimes felt angry or became more upset about small things than they would have done previously and some people found that they experienced feelings of depression for some while after their ‘event’. Several people felt quite emotional when they were talking to the researcher about what had happened to them and became tearful even though they said they were usually not the kind of person who cried easily. A few people felt that for a time afterwards they had lost their confidence and felt ‘lost’ (see ‘Emotions and feelings).
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Last reviewed August 2013

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