What You Need to Know About Carotid Artery Disease
Your carotid arteries are the two major vessels that transport blood to your brain, and are located on either side of your neck. When one or both become narrowed or blocked, you are suffering from carotid artery disease. This is typically caused by other diseases that either cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries or other arterial damage.
Here are the four things the carotid artery disease experts at Advanced Vascular Surgery, which has nine clinics in Southwest Michigan, want you to know:
Unfortunately, there are rarely warnings of the disease in its early stages. One of the first symptoms you may experience is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA has similar indicators to a stroke and the identifiers may last just a few minutes or up to an hour. These symptoms include:
- Weakness, numbness or a tingling sensation on one side of the body
- Inability to control the movement of an arm or leg
- Loss of vision in one eye, similar to a curtain being drawn
- Garbled speech
Many of the risk factors for carotid artery disease are similar to risk factors for other artery diseases in the body. Conditions that may put you more at risk for carotid artery disease are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history
Along with a complete understanding of your medical history and performing a general physical examination, there are three main ways to diagnose carotid artery disease.
- Carotid Duplex Ultrasound
- CT Scan and CT Angiography (CTA)
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA)
Once the disease is diagnosed, the goal of treatment is to prevent you from having a stroke. Every case will be different, but your doctor will have a few options and recommendations.
- Lifestyle changes, such as diet modifications, increasing exercise, and quitting smoking
- Prescription medication to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, or thin your blood
- Surgery to remove blockage and/or widen your carotid artery
If you know you have a family history of carotid artery disease or other circulatory issues, it is important to take preventative health measures and have regular physicals. The symptoms of a TIA are hard to differentiate from a traditional stroke, so seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of the signs above.