Over the past five years, Frankie Muniz has suffered from mini-strokes, or transient ischemic attacks, which cut off blood supply to the brain. He believes these, along with an estimated nine concussions, have contributed to severe memory loss surrounding his childhood acting days.
Frankie Muniz recently came out on “Dancing with the Stars” that he has severe memory loss that affects his daily life.
“Most people think that my most memorable year would be the year ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ started, because it allowed me to live all these dreams of mine,” Muniz said. “I’ve gotten to really do anything I’ve wanted to do, but the truth is, I don’t remember much [of that] … It almost feels like it wasn’t me.”
A mini-stroke, also known as a transient ischemic attack or TIA, is when no blood flows to the brain for a moment of time, but it doesn’t cause brain tissue death like with a regular stroke, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Symptoms of a mini-stroke may last for up to a day, though they often just last for a couple of hours.
The Mayo Clinic reported that symptoms of a mini-stroke are like those of a regular stroke, but the damage isn’t permanent. However, it could raise the risk of a future stroke.
Symptoms (according to WebMD) may include:
- vision changes
- numbness or paralysis
- experiencing a bad headache
- having trouble speaking
If you’ve had a mini-stroke, brain imaging — like CT or MRI scans — can help identify the cause of it. And knowing the cause can help you to take measures to prevent a future one, like going on blood clot medication, according to the Mayo Clinic.
TIAs are often an early warning sign that a person is at risk of stroke. About 1 in 3 people who has a TIA goes on to experience a subsequent stroke. The risk of stroke is especially high within 48 hours after a TIA.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of TIA usually last only a few minutes but may persist for up to 24 hours. Since the immediate signs and symptoms of TIA and stroke are identical, it’s important to seek medical attention.
You may need various diagnostic tests, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a computerized tomography (CT) scan, to help determine what caused the TIA.
Depending on the underlying cause (if one is determined), you may need medication to prevent blood clots or a procedure to remove fatty deposits (plaques) from the arteries that supply blood to your brain (carotid endarterectomy).
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination.
Concussions are usually caused by a blow to the head. However, violently shaking the head and upper body also can cause concussions.
Some concussions cause you to lose consciousness, but most do not. It’s possible to have a concussion and not realize it.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not show up immediately. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.
Common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, loss of memory (amnesia) and confusion. The amnesia usually involves forgetting the event that caused the concussion.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Dizziness or “seeing stars”
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Delayed response to questions
- Appearing dazed
You may have some symptoms of concussions immediately. Others may be delayed for hours or days after injury, such as:
- Concentration and memory complaints
- Irritability and other personality changes
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Sleep disturbances
- Psychological adjustment problems and depression
- Disorders of taste and smell
Symptoms in Children
Head trauma is very common in young children. But concussions can be difficult to recognize in infants and toddlers because they can’t describe how they feel. Concussion clues may include:
- Appearing dazed
- Listlessness and tiring easily
- Irritability and crankiness
- Loss of balance and unsteady walking
- Crying excessively
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Lack of interest in favorite toys
When to See a Doctor
See a doctor within 1 to 2 days if:
You or your child experiences a head injury and symptoms such as:
- Repeated vomiting
- A loss of consciousness lasting longer than 30 seconds
- A headache that gets worse over time
- Changes in his or her behavior, such as irritability
- Changes in physical coordination, such as stumbling or clumsiness
- Confusion or disorientation, such as difficulty recognizing people or places
- Slurred speech or other changes in speech
Other symptoms include:
- Vision or eye disturbances, such as pupils that are bigger than normal (dilated pupils) or pupils of unequal sizes
- Lasting or recurrent dizziness
- Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
- Symptoms that worsen over time
- Large head bumps or bruises on areas other than the forehead in children, especially in infants under 12 months of age
Your brain has the consistency of gelatin. It’s cushioned from everyday jolts and bumps by cerebrospinal fluid inside your skull.
A violent blow to your head and neck or upper body can cause your brain to slide back and forth forcefully against the inner walls of your skull.
Sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head, caused by events such as a car crash or being violently shaken, also can cause brain injury.
These injuries affect brain function, usually for a brief period, resulting in signs and symptoms of concussion.
This type of brain injury may lead to bleeding in or around your brain, causing symptoms such as prolonged drowsiness and confusion. These symptoms may develop immediately or later.
Such bleeding in your brain can be fatal. That’s why anyone who experiences a brain injury needs monitoring in the hours afterward and emergency care if symptoms worsen.
Activities and factors that may increase your risk of a concussion include:
- Falling, especially in young children and older adults
- Participating in a high-risk sport, such as football, hockey, soccer, rugby, boxing or other contact sport
- Participating in high-risk sports without proper safety equipment and supervision
- Being involved in a motor vehicle collision, pedestrian or bicycle accident
- Being a soldier involved in combat or a victim of physical abuse
- Having had a previous concussion
Potential complications of concussion include:
- Post-traumatic headaches. Some people experience headaches within a week to a few months after a brain injury.
- Post-traumatic vertigo. Some people experience a sense of spinning or dizziness for days, week or months after a brain injury.
- Post-concussion syndrome. Some people have symptoms — such as headaches, dizziness and thinking difficulties — a few days after a concussion. Symptoms may continue for weeks or months
- Cumulative effects of multiple brain injuries. It’s possible that some people who have had one or more traumatic brain injuries over the course of their lives are at greater risk of developing lasting, possibly progressive, impairment that limits function. This is an area of active research.
- Second impact syndrome. Rarely, experiencing a second concussion before signs and symptoms of a first concussion have resolved may result in rapid and usually fatal brain swelling.
Concussion changes the levels of brain chemicals. It usually takes about a week for these levels to stabilize again, but recovery time varies.
A TIA is usually rare in young adults, but now with the knowledge of the symptoms, you will be able to catch it before it gets worse. As for concussions, well, make sure your child wears a helmet.