Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque deposits build up inside the carotid arteries in the neck, cutting off blood flow to the brain. A blockage of blood can cause sections of the brain to stop functioning, killing brain cells. This process is more commonly known as a stroke. A stroke may result in serious long-term medical complications like disability and permanent brain damage. In some cases, strokes may even result in death.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a similar blockage of flow to the brain, but does not result in loss of brain cells due to the obstruction abruptly ending before permanent damage can occur. TIAs are typically called ‘mini-strokes’ and are warning signs that you are likely to have a stroke in the future.
Like all vascular diseases, your chances of suffering a stroke from a carotid artery include:
- 65 or older
- Family history of atherosclerosis
- High blood pressure
- Smoking and other tobacco use
Because carotid artery disease takes a long time to manifest itself, many people do not suffer any symptoms until they are having a stroke or a TIA. Seek medical attention at the nearest emergency room if you are suffering from any of these symptoms:
- Weakness or tingling on one side of your body, particularly the arms and the legs
- Difficulty moving or speaking
- Sudden loss of vision
- Inability to speak
If your doctor thinks you are at risk for carotid artery disease, they may suggest the following diagnostic tests:
- Duplex ultrasound
- CT scan
- Cerebral angiography
There are a couple of recommended habits to develop to help you avoid carotid artery disease including:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage high blood pressure
- Manage high cholesterol
If your carotid artery disease is severe, surgery will be required in order to prevent a TIA or a stroke.
Carotid endarterectomy is a procedure where a surgeon cuts open the artery and surgically removes the plaque and diseased portion of the artery. The artery is then sewn back together to allow blood flow to continue to the brain.
Carotid artery stenting is a less invasive procedure where a catheter is inserted into the artery and flattens the plaque against the artery walls. A stent is then placed in the carotid artery to ensure healthy amounts of blood flow to the brain.
Why Choose Methodist Healthcare?
Methodist Healthcare’s network of highly-skilled vascular surgeons in San Antonio has years of experience treating patients with carotid artery disease, making us the most preferred vascular care provider in the South Texas region. When you need vascular care, you can trust our vascular specialists to deliver outstanding healthcare.