Carotid artery stenosis, or better known simply as carotid artery disease, occurs when the two main arteries — one located on each side of the neck — that carry blood from the heart to the brain and head narrow. This condition is typically caused by a gradual buildup of plaque within the artery, which over time leads in the narrowing of it. If untreated, this disease can increase the likelihood of a stroke, which can result in permanent long-term medical issues and even death.
What causes carotid stenosis? Being the disease is progressive, it’s largely a combination of a number of factors over time. Those who suffer from medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with carotid artery stenosis. Smoking is another risk factor. In this post, we’ll cover everything that you should know about carotid artery disease, from its early symptoms to how it’s treated to how to prevent it. Here’s a look:
Early Symptoms of Carotid Artery Stenosis
In some cases, carotid stenosis may be an unknown health condition and not evident until an individual experiences signs of a stroke or suffers an actual stroke. In other situations, an annual medical physical exam may suggest to a doctor that there’s an issue, which may be followed up with a specialty test, like a carotid ultrasound. And in other cases, there are tell-tale signs and symptoms that individuals and healthcare professionals alike can take note of that may indicate a problem. Here’s a look at some of the early symptoms of carotid artery stenosis to be on the lookout for:
- Difficulty seeing suddenly or blindness.
- Slurring speech without alcohol consumption or other obvious causes.
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in the face and/or arm and/or leg.
- Inability to speak or understand speech.
- Confusion and memory problems.
Treating Carotid Artery Stenosis
The good news about carotid artery stenosis is that it’s treatable and certain lifestyle choices can make living with the disease more manageable. Mild cases can even be treated with over-the-counter medications, like aspirin, which can help decrease the likelihood of blood clotting and reduce the risk of stroke. More severe blockages typically involve a more invasive surgical procedure where an endarterectomy is performed to remove plaque buildup within the artery and restore normal blood flow.
As we hinted above, following a carotid artery stenosis, individuals should make immediate changes to their lifestyle, which may include quitting smoking, adopting a healthier diet, exercising more and taking medication to treat conditions that may be aiding in plaque buildup. Eating healthy is particularly important, and a steady diet of fruits and vegetables don’t just provide antioxidants, reduce inflammation and strengthen connective tissue, but stimulate blood flow throughout the body as well. A good diet isn’t just important for heart health, but vein health as well.
How to Prevent Carotid Artery Stenosis and Other Vein Issues
As we noted above, the best way to prevent carotid artery stenosis is to live a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and refrain from any lifestyle habits — like smoking — that could lead to long-term health issues. Additionally, preventative medical care is key to catching certain health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that could lead to the sudden onset of carotid artery stenosis.
Contact Premier Heart and Vein Care for More Information
One of the ways to diagnose carotid artery stenosis is via a carotid ultrasound, a non-invasive, safe procedure where images of the body’s internal structures are taken and can be analyzed to assess the carotid artery’s overall health in real-time. At Premier Heart and Vein Care, we’re proud to offer this type of test as a way to carefully examine the health of the carotid artery. Contact us today, and we’ll be happy to introduce you to Dr. Ken Stevens, our industry-leading vein physician. Contact our office today for more information.