The carotid arteries are major blood vessels located on each side of your neck. The major function of the carotid arteries is to provide blood supply to the brain, face and neck. In the neck, each carotid arteries divide into two; internal and external. Internal carotid artery helps to supply blood to brain and external supplies blood to face and neck.
Carotid Artery Stenosis which is also called carotid artery disease is a condition of narrowing or blocking carotid arteries. It occurs when a fatty and waxy substance called ‘plaque’ accumulates inside carotid arteries. The condition of building up of this plaque is referred to as Atherosclerosis. Carotid artery disease is a serious one because it can cause Stroke. There forms blood clot inside the arteries that consequently prevents the regular flow of blood to the target location.
Carotid artery disease usually starts in a person due to any damage to the layers of carotid arteries. High levels of certain fats, cholesterol and sugar in the blood may cause this disease. Persons with habit of smoking are at an increased risk of getting this disease. Apart from these, there are many other factors that contribute to this disease. These include overweight, lack of physical exercises, unhealthy diet, older age etc.
You are more likely to get affected with carotid artery disease as you age. Most of the patients having this disease belong to the age group of 80-89.
Remember that having any of these factors will not definitely make you a patient of Carotid artery stenosis. But on noticing any such factors, you should be alert to take necessary steps to prevent disease or need to get medical aid urgently. If you wish to live healthy throughout your life, you should take care of the above mentioned factors and take better actions.
Carotid Artery Stenosis may not show signs or symptoms in its early stages. The symptoms may be clearly noticeable when the arteries are getting started to narrow or damage severely. The primary sign may be a bruit or a kind of stroke called transient ischemic attack.
Bruit is a sound, a physician can hear, when he listens to your carotid arteries with a stethoscope. Not all patients will have this.
You may have a Transient ischemic attack, can be called as a mini-stroke. Its symptoms may not last a long.
The symptoms include:
- A sudden feeling of weakness on your body usually on one side.
- The movement of arms or legs becomes uncontrollable.
- Trouble in speaking.
- Losing vision in one eye or both.
- Loss of balance
Consult a doctor and follow his advices immediately.
Your physician will diagnose disease based on the medical records, health exam and test results. Doctor will ask you certain questions to find out whether you have any major risk factors for Carotid Artery Stenosis or stroke.
He will check bruit also. The presence of bruit indicates changed or reduced blood flow due to plaque deposits.
The major diagnostic tests for Carotid Artery Disease include:
- Computerized Tomography
- Scan and Angiography
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography
- Carotid Ultrasound and Carotid Angiography.
After diagnosis, it is inevitable to get proper and better treatment to stop the disease from getting worse. The treatments include various medicines and medical procedures. Treatment will depend on your symptoms, severity of your disease, your age and overall health.
In order to make the treatments more effective, you should follow:
- Recommended lifestyle changes.
- A healthy diet.
- Daily physical exercises.
- If you have the habit of smoking, it will be better to quit the habit.
Follow the medications prescribed by your doctor. He may recommend aspirin or clopidogrel as anticoagulants or statins as cholesterol reducer.
The most severe conditions can be treated only with certain surgical procedures. One is a surgery called carotid endarterectomy. The other is called carotid artery angioplasty and stent placement.
In Carotid endarterectomy, the removal of plaque by making a cut to reach the affected arteries takes place. It is long lasting and safe.
Carotid angioplasty and stenting is a newer and minimally invasive procedure. Angioplasty is a procedure which is used to widen the blocked carotid arteries and thereby to enable or restore blood flow to the brain. It is done by making a much smaller cut, by pushing instruments into your arteries and placing a wire mesh inside the artery through a tube in the groin. But it is still under controversies regarding its effectiveness and risks.