What is carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease occurs if a blockage in one or both arteries reduces the amount of blood flow to the brain. This increases the risk for a stroke. The carotid arteries are the core blood vessels that provide blood to the brain.

What are the causes?

Coronary artery disease is generally caused by atherosclerosis which is a condition where plaque builds up in the arteries. The same buildup arises in the blood vessels in the heart once an individual has coronary artery disease.

It is important to note that atherosclerosis can cause the carotid arteries to constrict and become less flexible over time which reduces the amount of blood flow to the organs.

carotid-artery-disease
The symptoms are likely to arise when one of the carotid arteries are partly or completely blocked.

What are the risk factors?

Certain conditions can impair the arteries and put one at higher risk for coronary artery disease such as:

  • High blood pressure can weaken the artery walls that makes them prone to damage
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol level
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Older age
  • Family history of atherosclerosis

Indications of coronary artery disease

In the early phase of coronary artery disease, the symptoms are rare. The symptoms are likely to arise when one of the carotid arteries are partly or completely blocked. A carotid artery is considered almost congested if it is more than 80% blocked.

At this point, the individual is at high risk for a transient ischemic attack or stroke. This is called as a mini-stroke due to the stroke symptoms that last for a few minutes up to a few hours such as:

  • Abrupt weakness or numbness in the arms, face or legs
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Numbness and drooping in one side of the face
  • Numbness or weakness in the limbs
  • Sudden, intense headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden visual issues in one or both eyes

Call for emergency assistance or bring the individual to the nearest emergency department if any of these are present since they might be indications of a medical emergency.

Management

The doctor will base the treatment on the symptoms and whether the individual had a stroke.

If diagnosed with coronary artery disease before a stroke, the doctor might recommend preventive lifestyle changes such as:

  • Regular exercise
  • Cessation of smoking
  • Healthy diet
  • Taking the appropriate medications as prescribed
  • Management of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease

The treatment is more invasive if the individual was diagnosed with coronary artery disease after having a stroke. The doctor might decide to open the carotid artery to get rid of the blockage.

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