What is Carotid Artery Disease?
Carotid arteries are responsible for carrying oxygen rich blood from the heart to the brain and heart. These arteries are located on each side of the neck and are very crucial as they are responsible for supplying blood to the big front portion of the brain. This is considered as a very crucial part as personality, motor functions, speech, sensory and thinking exists here.
When there is blockage or narrowing of the carotid artery caused by the accumulation of the plaque is known as carotid artery disease. The accumulation of the plaque blocks the supply of the blood into the brain and increases the risk of stroke. This gradual build-up is due to diabetes, high blood cholesterol, tobacco and high blood pressure. Transient Ischemic Attacks (mini-strokes) or a stroke are caused by carotid artery disease.
Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease
There are no symptoms of carotid artery disease in its early stages. This disease is noticed when the brain is deprived of blood and resulting into TIA (Transient Ischemic Attacks) or s stroke. Symptoms of TIA include –
- Sudden or severe headache without any cause
- Weakness or sudden numbness in the limbs or face. This is usually only on one side of the body.
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Sudden trouble in seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble in understanding and speaking
Causes of Carotid Artery Disease
When damage is caused to the inner layers of the carotid arteries results in carotid artery disease. Following are the factors contributing to the damage are –
- High levels of sugar in the blood caused by diabetes or insulin resistance
- High blood pressure
- High levels of cholesterol and specific fats in the blood
Diagnosis of Carotid Artery Disease
A physical test of a patient is performed. A stethoscope can also be placed in order to hear bruit (abnormal sound). This is done for hearing the flow of the blood in the neck. The existence of blood clots in the blood vessels of the eye is also revealed by the means of the physical exam.
The different tests include –
- Ultrasound of the carotid arteries is performed for examining the blood flwo from the carotid artery
- Blood tests to check triglycerides and cholesterol
- Blood sugar (glucose) test
Imaging tests are also performed for examining the blood vessels in the brain and neck that include –
- Cerebral or carotid angiography
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
- Computerized tomographic angiography (CTA)
Treatment for Carotid Artery Disease
The treatment of carotid artery disease includes certain lifestyle changes along with the surgery.
Lifestyle changes include –
- A patient should control cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure
- Exercising regularly for at least 30 minutes
- A patient should limit the amount of alcohol
- A patient should eat food that are low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats
- Avoid tobacco products and quit smoking
- Maintain a desirable weight
- Always have regular check-ups
- Take blood thinning medicines in order to lower the risk of stroke
Carotid artery disease treatment is based on the severity of the stenosis found in the carotid artery. Certain medications can treat mild or moderate stenosis. Carotid endarterectomy is the surgical procedure for removing the buildup in the carotid arteries that can prevent new strokes from occurring. This is meant for those people who have large blockages in their neck arteries.
Carotid artery stenting (CAS) is the procedure that is performed for unblocking the narrowing of the carotid artery lumen. This is a catheter based procedure which is primarily performed for preventing a stroke. The treatment is performed in the catheterization laboratory.
Cost of Carotid Artery Disease
Compared to the surgical costs in Europe and America, the cost of carotid artery surgery is substantially lower in India due to its excellent health care facilities.