Why don’t more doctors take seriously a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

A TIA (transient ischemic attack) is very serious – it’s your body’s way of warning you that a stroke may be imminent. A suspected TIA should be treated as an emergency.

Amazingly, it is not all that uncommon for a person to report to his general doctor recent symptoms that sound very suspiciously like a transient ischemic attack.

The doctor sends the patient home with no treatment plan, and instead, tells the patient that he’ll get back to him after consulting with a neurologist.

So what’s this patient supposed to do in the meantime to minimize another TIA or even stroke? Cross his fingers?

Seems to me that if a patient reports TIA like symptoms to a doctor, and the doctor suspects a transient ischemic attack, this doctor should be hopping on the case, immediately putting in an order for a brain, heart and carotid artery scan to explore confirming evidence and location of the transient ischemic attack.

But some physicians won’t get hopping like this.

Instead, they make the patient wait until the physician has heard back from the neurologist. There is alarming laxity here.

“This speaks to the systemic flaw that pervades all healthcare: more attention to the acute problem rather than addressing or preventing the underlying cause,” explains William R. Davis, MD, cardiologist and author of “Wheat Belly.”

So what’s behind a TIA, then?

“The underlying cause is usually atherosclerosis,” says Dr. Davis.

“The standard response to atherosclerosis of the carotid artery, for instance, is aspirin, other platelet-blocking drugs like Plavix, and cholesterol reducing drugs.

However, there are plenty of other strategies that can be pursued that can substantially reduce or eliminate the risk of future TIAs.”

Symptoms of a transient ischemic attack are pretty much identical to symptoms of a stroke.

In fact, another name for TIA or transient ischemic attack is “mini-stroke.”

A TIA is a temporary obstruction of a blood vessel in the brain, formed by either a clot of blood, or plaque debris originating from the carotid or aortic artery.

TIA symptoms: sudden onset of numbness, weakness, heaviness or paralysis on one side of the body; loss of balance; cognitive change or confusion; double or blurred vision, or the sensation of a curtain coming over the eye or blindness; dizziness; headache; slurred speech or difficulty talking.

If you suspect you just had a transient ischemic attack, head straight to the ER. The risk of stroke following a TIA is greatest within three days of the TIA.

Dr. Davis is founder of the Track Your Plaque program for heart disease prevention and reversal.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Stokkete