Nearly one-third of patients who suffer a mini-stroke, also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“TIAs are brief episodes of stroke-like symptoms, such as sudden onset of numbness, weakness or paralysis, slurred speech, loss of language, sudden loss of memory, blurred vision, confusion, and severe headache,” said study co-author Kathrin Utz, Ph.D., a researcher in the department of neurology.
TIA, like stroke, is caused by restricted blood supply to the brain. A TIA is temporary and often lasts less than five minutes, without causing permanent brain damage.
“At the moment, a TIA is seen by doctors as a fairly benign disorder,” said Utz. And yet the findings reveal that a TIA is not as harmless as it seems.
“We found one in three patients develop PTSD, which is perhaps better known as a problem found in survivors of war zones and natural disasters,” said Utz.
“PTSD may develop after a frightening experience that posed a serious threat,” she explained. “It leads the person to experience symptoms such as worry, nightmares, flashbacks, and social isolation,” said Utz.
For the study, published in the journal Stroke, 108 patients (median age of 70) completed questionnaires three months after suffering a TIA. The findings showed that about 14 percent had significantly reduced mental quality of life after their mini-stroke, and 6.5 percent had reduced physical quality of life.
“It’s not entirely clear why some patients develop post-traumatic stress disorder following a TIA, but others do not,” Utz said.
“However, what we do know at this stage is that younger patients and patients who in general find it difficult to cope with stress are more likely to develop psychological problems following a TIA,” Utz said.
“We also found that patients who overestimate their risk of suffering a future stroke are also more likely to show psychological problems,” she said.
“The findings suggest that particular attention should be given to younger patients. Also, teaching better stress-coping skills and carefully explaining a patient’s potential stroke risk might help prevent PTSD after a TIA,” Utz said.
“Five out of 1,000 people will experience a TIA at some point in their life,” Utz said. “TIA’s are considered a warning sign for a potential stroke, so it is important for patients who experience one of these mini-strokes to see a physician,” Utz said.
Source: American Heart Association