What Is the Difference Between a Stroke and a Light Stroke?

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A light stroke or mini-stroke, also called a transient ischemic attack, is a temporary blockage of blood to a part of the brain, while a stroke is a long-term blockage that causes brain tissue to die, according to Mayo Clinic and MedlinePlus. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, usually as a result of a blood clot in or near the brain.

In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Brain cells starved of oxygenated blood begin to die in only minutes, so a stroke is a serious medical emergency, explains MedlinePlus. A stroke results in permanent loss of function, including paralysis, speech problems, memory loss and vision problems, states the American Stroke Association.

Although the symptoms are nearly identical to those of a stroke, a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, does not cause permanent injury to the brain, explains the American Stroke Association. A typical TIA lasts less than five minutes, and the average time is about one minute. However, a TIA is an indication that a stroke may follow. Approximately one-third of people experiencing a TIA have a stroke within one year, although most strokes are not preceded by a TIA. Sudden numbness or drooping of the face, confusion or trouble speaking, and arm numbness or weakness are signs of a TIA or stroke.