Mini-Stroke May Lead to PTSD

Transient ischemic attacks or temporary strokes may raise risk of post traumatic stress disorder

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition often associated with war survivors. People who have had mini-strokes, however, may also live with PTSD.

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are temporary blockages of blood flow to the brain. They are often warning signs that a stroke may lie ahead. While TIAs do not cause permanent brain damage, they may affect a person’s mental state.

A new report has found that people who had these temporary strokes faced a greater risk of developing PTSD.

Kathrin Utz, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, and colleagues conducted this research.

Dr. Utz and her team reviewed information about the mental state of 108 patients who had ministrokes. Patients had no prior history of stroke. Their mental condition was gauged by answers patients provided via questionnaires.

The researchers found that one in three TIA patients had symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD develops when a person experiences a frightening event that poses a serious threat. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms can include frightening thoughts, bad dreams, racing heart and sweating.

About 14 percent of all TIA patients reported that their mental quality of life was significantly reduced, and 6.5 percent had lower physical quality of life.

The TIA patients demonstrating PTSD symptoms were more likely to have depression and anxiety.

Sarah Samaan, MD, cardiologist and physician partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, told dailyRx News that there are a number of reasons that a TIA may cause symptoms of PTSD.

“TIAs typically come on with no warning,” she said. “That means that an individual may be feeling perfectly well one moment, and the next he may be unable to speak or to walk properly. It's often a terrible shock to realize that we are breakable, and that really bad things can happen to us.”

She added that people often feel as if they have no control over the situation, which can be very frightening and cause anxiety. In some cases, TIAs may impair the ability to think clearly or to process complicated information.

The authors of this study wrote that TIA symptoms may include the sudden onset of numbness, weakness or paralysis, slurred speech, aphasia (a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate), blurred vision, confusion and severe headache.

Most TIAs are due to preventable or treatable conditions, said Dr. Samaan. These conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (an erratic heart rhythm).

“By simply getting regular preventive check-ups with your doctor, and by choosing a healthy way of life, you can drastically lower your chances of TIA and stroke,” Dr. Samaan said.

This study was published on October 2 in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 2, 2014
Last Updated:
October 8, 2014