The difference between silent stroke and mini-stroke

Silent stroke and mini-stroke are relatively different types of strokes

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Although they sound similar, there is a difference between silent stroke and mini-stroke. First, though, let's talk about stroke in general. 

What is Stroke?

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures).

When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die.

Effects of Stroke

The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions.  If a stroke occurs and blood flow can't reach the region that controls a particular body function, that part of the body won't work as it should. 

Risk Factors of Stroke

  • Age — The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes.
  • Heredity (family history) — Your stroke risk may be greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. 
  • Race — African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do. This is partly because blacks have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
  • Sex (gender) — Each year, women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men. Use of birth control pills, pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and smoking, and post-menopausal hormone therapy may pose special stroke risks for women. 
  • Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack — The risk of stroke for someone who has already had one is many times that of a person who has not. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are "warning strokes" that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. TIAs are strong predictors of stroke. A person who's had one or more TIAs is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn't. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. TIA should be considered a medical emergency and followed up immediately with a healthcare professional. If you've had a heart attack, you're at higher risk of having a stroke, too.

    What is a Silent Stroke?

    A silent stroke is a stroke that someone has without realizing that it happened. Usually, a silent stroke is noticed incidentally on an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain. When patients are asked whether they remember having a stroke, they are often surprised and cannot recall feeling any symptoms of stroke at any point in their lives. One study showed that by the age of 69, approximately 10 to 11 percent of people who consider themselves stroke-free have suffered at least one stroke that can be seen on MRI.

    What is a Mini-Stroke?

    A mini-stroke, on the other hand, is a brief, but discrete and certainly memorable clinical event, in which a person develops the symptoms of a stroke for a few minutes to a few hours. By definition, the symptoms of a mini-stroke disappear in less than 24 hours. Mini-strokes are also referred to as TIAs.

    References:

    American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke
    Bradley G Walter, Daroff B Robert, Fenichel M Gerald, Jancovic, Joseph Neurology in clinical practice, principles of diagnosis and management. Fourth Edition, Philadelphia Elsevier, 2004.
    Das RR, Seshadri S, Beiser AS, Kelly-Hayes M, Au R, Himali JJ, Kase CS, Benjamin EJ, Polak JF, O'Donnell CJ, Yoshita M, D'Agostino RB Sr, Decarli C, Wolf PA. Prevalence and Correlates of Silent Cerebral Infarcts in the Framingham Offspring Study. Stroke. (2008) Jun 26.

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