Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid artery disease, also known as carotid artery stenosis occurs when plaques (fatty deposits and cholesterol) clog the carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are the arteries that deliver blood to the brain and head. When the carotid arteries are clogged, they become narrowed, thereby reducing blood flow to the brain. This can lead to stroke.
Carotid Artery Disease Symptoms
The carotid artery blockage may go unnoticed until it’s serious enough to deprive your brain of receiving enough blood, leading to a stroke. It is a progressive disease that develops slowly over time.
Stroke is the first and most common symptom and signs which include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face or limbs that often occurs on one side of the body
- Sudden difficulty or inability to speak
- Sudden loss of understanding
- Sudden difficulty or inability to see with one or both eyes
- Loss of muscle strength
- Sudden dizziness or loss of balance
- Sudden severe headache
Carotid Artery Disease Causes
The buildup or accumulation of plaques in the carotid arteries that narrows or blocks the arteries is the main cause of this disease.
Certain factors increase the risk of this disease. These include:
- Sleep apnea
- Lack of exercise
- High blood pressure
- Smoking or tobacco use
- High blood-fat levels
- Family history of atherosclerosis or coronary artery blockage
Carotid Artery Disease Diagnosis
During diagnosis, your medical history will be reviewed. A physical exam will be conducted. The physical exam generally includes listening for a swooshing sound over the carotid artery. A swooshing sound is an attribute of a narrowed artery. Your physical and mental capabilities such as your strength, memory, and speech may also be tested.
Tests may also be ordered. The tests that may be ordered include:
- CT scan or MRI
- CT angiography or MR angiography
Carotid Artery Disease Treatment in Waco, TX
Treatment is aimed at improving blood flow to the head and preventing stroke.
Lifestyle changes including losing weight, quitting smoking, eating healthy foods, reducing salt, and exercising regularly can help reduce plaque buildup in the carotid artery.
Medication to control blood pressure or lower cholesterol may be prescribed. Aspirin or blood-thinning medications may be prescribed to prevent blood clots.
Surgical procedures may be recommended to remove plaques from the carotid artery. Procedures that may be performed include:
1. Carotid angioplasty and stenting
This procedure is performed to keep the blocked or narrowed artery open to allow sufficient blood flow. It involves threading a deflated tiny balloon through a catheter into the clogged artery. When in place, the balloon is inflated to widen the artery. A small mesh (stent) is inserted into the carotid artery to always keep the artery open.
2. Carotid endarterectomy
This procedure is the most common procedure for the severe disease of the carotid artery. The surgery involves making an incision along the front of the neck where the carotid artery is. The clogged carotid artery is then opened and the plaques are removed.
What is the life expectancy with a blocked carotid artery?
Most patients who have this disease can live a normal life if timely treatment is provided. Generally, women can live additional 16 years while men can live additional 14 years.
What percent blockage of a carotid artery is considered to be dangerous?
It is generally divided into three stages. They are mild, moderate, and severe stages.
- A mild carotid artery disease is a blockage that’s less than 50%.
- A moderate carotid artery disease is a blockage that’s between 50% and 79%.
- A severe carotid artery blockage is a blockage that’s between 80% to 99%. Almost all part of the artery is blocked, significantly limiting blood flow. This is the most severe form of blockage and it is considered dangerous.
Is carotid artery disease serious?
It is a serious disease that can lead to stroke. Blood flow to the brain and head is reduced or blocked, which prevents the brain from getting oxygenated blood to function properly.
Can you live with blockage of the carotid artery?
This is a progressive disease. It could take several years for the carotid artery to get narrowed or blocked from plaque accumulation. You can live with carotid artery disease when it’s at its mild and moderate stage but you will require immediate treatment when it progresses to its severe stage. If left untreated, carotid artery disease could lead to stroke.
Can carotid artery disease be reversed?
Practicing healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating healthy foods, losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing salt intake can help reduce plaque buildup and reverse the disease of the carotid artery.
What side of the neck is the carotid artery?
The carotid arteries are two large arteries that are located on either side of the neck.
What are the warning signs of a blocked carotid artery?
The warning signs of a blocked carotid artery are signs of stroke which include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty seeing with one or both eyes
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the body parts, including the face and limbs, which often occur on one side of the body
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden severe headache
Is carotid endarterectomy high-risk surgery?
Carotid endarterectomy is not a high-risk surgery. The carotid arteries are large and close to the skin. They’re easily accessible. The surgery doesn’t pose any major risk or complications.