Carotid Artery Disease
What is carotid artery disease?
The carotid arteries are a pair of large blood vessels present in the neck. They supply blood to the brain. When these arteries get blocked, it leads to a condition known as carotid artery disease. The arteries become narrow due to atherosclerosis, where plaque, made of cholesterol and calcium, deposit on the inner lining of these arteries. The risk of stroke goes up with the severity of the blockage.
What causes carotid artery disease?
Carotid artery disease can occur due to smoking, genetics, cholesterol level, high blood pressure and an unhealthy lifestyle.
What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
The narrowing of the arteries causes stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA). I TIA (also called a “ministroke”) is a condition in which a person suffers the exact same symptoms of a stroke, but they last generally less than an hour. This can include loss of vision in one eye, weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or difficulty understanding what others are saying.
How is carotid artery disease diagnosed?
When you present to your doctor with these symptoms, your doctor will most likely order a carotid ultrasound. Other tests such as [link href=”657″]computerized tomographic angiography (CTA[/link]) may be ordered to examine the blood vessels of the neck and brain. It is necessary to perform carotid angiography on some patients who have this condition.
How is carotid artery disease treated?
Blood thinning medicines like aspirin and Plavix (clopididrel) are suggested to help lower the risk of stroke. Surgery is the only effective way to treat patients with severe carotid artery disease.
- Carotid endarterectomy: is a standard surgical procedure performed to treat individuals with carotid artery disease. This procedure is done in the operating room. The plaque is removed from the artery very carefully so that none is dislodged and goes to the brain. The procedure takes about an hour to perform and is usually done under general anesthesia. There is a 2-4% risk of stroke during this procedure. The likelihood of success of this operation depends mostly on the experience of the surgeon, so it will behoove patients to seek out a surgeon with lots of experience with this procedure.
- Stenting: Stents are mounted on a catheter. The stent is a mesh-like tube made of metal, which has the ability to expand inside the blocked artery. The stent is inserted into the blocked artery. As the balloon inflates, the stent expands by keeping the artery open. The balloon is then deflated and removed.
As with any other surgical procedure, surgery for carotid artery is associated with possible complications of heart attack, stroke and death.
How can I prevent carotid artery disease?
Carotid artery disease can be prevented with the following lifestyle changes:
- Exercise regularly to reduce weight
- Stop smoking
- Monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels regularly
- Follow your doctor’s treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease
- Eat healthy food and avoid eating fatty food stuffs