During a "mini stroke" you'd experience some or all of the symptoms characteristic of a stroke, but they'd go away quickly and everything would be, seemingly, back to normal. Just like in a regular stroke, mini strokes happen when a blood clot clogs an artery leading to the brain, but (unlike in a regular stroke) the clog is only momentary, so the symptoms stop soon after they start.
According to the American Heart Association, the average mini stroke lasts for about a minute, and most are over within five minutes. Though they're brief, it's important that you recognize a mini-stroke if you have one, so don't ignore any of these symptoms (from the AHA website):
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Until very recently, experts thought that mini-strokes (which are technically called "transient ischemic attacks." or TIAs) didn't cause any permanent damage to the brain, and that they only mattered because having one is a sign that you're at increased risk of having a regular, possibly deadly, stroke down the road.
But new research finds that mini-strokes in fact do affect brain function. Although CT scans and MRIs do not show any brain damage from a mini-stroke, Canadian researchers used a brain mapping tool called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on people who'd suffered from mini-stroke, and found "silent" damage to the side of the brains where the mini-strokes occurred.
So if you ever experience a mini-stroke, or even suspect that you have, it's important to get medical attention immediately, even if the symptoms have passed and you feel fine. In addition to assessing any damage, doctors will be able to assess whether you're at risk of having a serious stroke, and hopefully treat you to prevent it.