Carotid Artery Disease
The carotid arteries are two main arteries that feed blood from your heart to the brain. These arteries course along the front of the neck on both sides. These arteries are at risk for developing a blockage as we age. This blockage is from plaque - the same plaque that develops in the heart and can cause a heart attack, can also form in the carotid arteries. Risk factors for developing carotid artery disease are smoking, coronary artery disease, renal insufficiency or failure, diabetes, prior family history of stroke, and age.
Is a blockage in the Carotid Artery serious?
Most blockages in the carotid artery can be monitored with a periodic ultrasound. If the blockage becomes severe, it can increase your risk of a stroke. If this occurs, treatment may be required to reduce your risk of stroke. Treatment can be either surgery or a stent – this depends on your particular disease and other medical risk factors. If your blockage is not severe, we will prescribe certain medications to reduce the risk of stroke by suppressing inflammatory changes that often occur with this blockage. These medications will not prevent the blockage from getting worse with time.
What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
Unfortunately, carotid artery disease is a silent disease process. The first clinical sign of carotid artery disease is a stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), often referred to as a mini-stroke. However, Carotid artery disease can be found prior to symptoms of stroke or mini-stroke. This can be found through a good thorough physical exam, as well as through an ultrasound of your carotid arteries.
If you have any of the above stated risk factors, ask your doctor about being evaluated for carotid artery disease.