Carotid artery disease, otherwise known as carotid artery stenosis, is the narrowing of the carotid artery – the blood vessels in the neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain.
Carotid artery diseasecan be present for a long time before symptoms appear, as the arteries become clogged over time. when symptoms do appear, it is generally quite dangerous as a stroke or stroke-like attacks can occur soon after. Common symptoms include:
- Mini-Strokes or Ischemic Attacks
- Full-Fledged Strokes
- Temporary Loss or Vision
Carotid artery disease can be caused by cholesterol build-up in the blood vessels known as atherosclerosis. Often times blood clots can appear within the artery and travel up to the brain causing strokes and stroke-like ischemic attacks.
Risk Factors include habits that raise cholesterol, including:
- High Blood Pressure – Hypertension
- High Cholesterol
- Lack of Exercise
- Poor Diet
In order to test for carotid artery stenosis your physician will use a number of methodsof checking the health of your carotid artery, as well as identifying any blockages. These tests include:
- Carotid Ultrasound – Using high-frequency waves we are able to look for plaque build-up and any clots blocking or narrowing the arteries.
- MRA or Magnetic resonance angiography – Uses magnets to generate high-res images of the brain and arteries. Can identify any blockages, or the possibility of stroke.
- CTA or Computerized tomography angiography – Also known as a CT scan, uses low-level radiation to create multiple cross-sectional views of the brain and arteries – allowing you to be aware of any blockages or future strokes.
- Carotid Angiogram – The best diagnostic for the carotid arteries, an invasive procedure in which the blood flow of the carotid is seen in real-time. A dye is injected into the artery and it can be seen on a live X-Ray, shows any narrowing or blockages.
Often times patients don’t even realize they are suffering from CAD until they have already suffered a mild or full stroke. The most important method of treatment however, is prevention and making lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol and relieve any blockages or narrowing. Also the use of prescription medication to lower cholesterol, and limit the chances of stroke.
Lifestyle Changes to Lower Cholesterol Include:
- Quit Smoking
- Control High Blood Pressure
- Manage Your Weight
- Eating a heart healthy diet
- Limit your alcohol
- Get your cholesterol checked and use medication
Medical Procedures can also help improve your carotid artery function such as inputting a stent, which will help to open up the arteries and relieve some of the blockages. There are other treatments and procedures available depending upon your specific needs, for more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.