What Happens When You Have a Mini Stroke?

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

It is important to understand what happens when you have a mini-stroke before the time comes. Knowing the signs to look for and how to calmly react are important. Learn the FAST test for strokes and get help immediately if you even suspect a stroke could be happening.

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A stroke takes place when your brain doesn’t get the required amount of oxygen. This results in starving of the brain tissue and the brain, thus damaging and destroying them slowly.

However, a mini-stroke is a subset of a regular stroke. Doctors also call it a transient ischemic attack or TIA. During this stage, your brain cells are deprived of oxygen for a shorter period of time.

Mini-stroke and TIA symptoms may look similar to a stroke because you don’t know whether the brain cells are dysfunctional for a small period or not.

Symptoms of a Mini-Stroke

Doctors suggest that you immediately get to the nearest hospital whenever you see any symptoms of a stroke. Whether it is a mini-stroke or a regular, that’s for the doctor to diagnose; your first job is to take the person to the hospital right away.

So, here are some of the symptoms of a mini-stroke to watch out for:

Numbness in the Arms And Legs Usually on One Side of the Body

This is the first sign that you should be wary of.

The body of the person suddenly becomes weak. It’s not like he/she is getting a blackout. That is an instant reaction. But, a mini-stroke takes place for a few minutes. It makes you numb from within. You try hard to lift your arms or legs, but you can’t.

In most cases, the numbness takes place on one side of the body. For example, the right or left side becomes irresponsive. He/she can’t speak correctly and usually slumps in his/her place.

Speech Becomes Slurred or Makes No Sense

Apart from the body becoming numb, the person’s speech also becomes slurry. This is similar to how a drunken man or woman would speak. You will notice that the person’s voice is slowly fainting.

Additionally, his/her words would get tangled. It is as if someone is restricting his/her voice from within. The eyes look tired and drawn inside.

senior woman having a mini stroke on stairs

Sudden Dizziness or Loss of Balance

Apart from numbness and slurry speech, another common symptom of mini-stroke that senior citizens need to keep in mind is dizziness. If he/she loses their balance suddenly or has trouble walking, it may indicate a mini-stroke.

Doctors suggest that you should help the person sit or lay down flat and call the ambulance immediately.

Severe Headache and Unconsciousness

Whether it is a regular stroke or a mini-stroke, brain hemorrhage (brain bleeding) can be one of the significant reasons behind this problem.

A mini-stroke due to internal bleeding is very dangerous. Sometimes patients go to coma also when this happens. The first sign of a mini-stroke from internal bleeding is a severe headache. It feels worse than migraines. The person suffering from this attack will say that it’s almost like their head will explode.

In addition to the sudden headache, the person may also become unconscious. If you are caring for an older adult in the house and see them complaining about terrible headaches all of a sudden, it may indicate a mini-stroke due to internal bleeding.

If You See Any of These Symptoms, Take Immediate Action

Understanding the symptom of a mini-stroke is not the end of things. You need to act fast because the consequences of the stroke can be devastating. Always remember the symptoms mentioned above.

Apart from that, also keep in mind that you need to take FAST action.

Here, FAST stands for the following:


If you suspect that the person is getting a mini-stroke, ask him/her to smile. See if one side of his/her face droops or not. If so, react fast. If you see that the person can’t smile or it is a crooked smile, it is usually a confirmation of a mini-stroke.


If you don’t understand whether the person is smiling or not, you can ask him/her to lift their arms. See if one of the arms is drifting downward. Usually, a mini-stroke will affect one of the sides of the body. That arm will slowly come down after a few seconds or not go as high as the other.


Asking the person to repeat an easy sentence would help to understand if their speech is slurred or not. Tell them to repeat, “My name is ABC.”


Time is the most crucial part here. If you suspect any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. The faster you act, the quicker help will arrive.

To learn more about what happens when you have a mini stroke, here are some additional resources.

RELATED: Weighted Blankets for Stroke Patients

Final Thoughts

If you care for a senior, it is important to understand what happens when you have a mini-stroke before the time comes. Knowing the symptoms to watch out for and how to calmly react are important.

But, the most important thing is to react quickly and get help immediately if you even suspect a stroke could be happening.

Do you have any experience with a mini-stroke that you would like to share? Have you cared for someone who had a stroke on your watch? Please share your personal experience in the comments below!

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