The carotid arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the head and brain. Located on each side of the neck, these arteries can easily be felt pulsating by placing your fingers gently on either side of your windpipe. The carotid arteries are essential as they supply blood to the large front part of the brain.
Carotid artery disease is defined by the narrowing or blockage of the artery due to plaque build-up. The process that blocks these arteries (atherosclerosis) is basically the same as that which causes coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD). The slow build-up of plaque (which is a deposit of cholesterol, calcium, and other cells in the artery wall) is caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use, high blood cholesterol and other modifiable risk factors.
Over time, this narrowing may eventually become so severe that a blockage decreases blood flow to the brain and may tragically cause a stroke.
As for all artery diseases, there are usually no advanced warning signs for early forms of carotid artery disease. For many individuals, the first obvious sign often is a TIA or mini-stroke. Symptoms for a stroke or TIA are similar and may include blurring, dimming, or loss of vision; tingling around the mouth, difficulty with speech, the inability to normally move an arm or leg, the inability to feel (numbness) in a part of the body and rarely, a sudden severe headache.
Carotid artery disease is part of the arterial circulatory system and has similar risk factors as PAD and coronary heart disease:
Most importantly, if you have an atherosclerotic artery disease such as PAD or coronary heart disease, you are at high risk for carotid artery disease and stroke.
The diagnosis of carotid artery disease is usually based on an ultrasound examination of the neck arteries (a carotid artery duplex scan). Alternatively, the artery can be visualized by a magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) or standard angiogram.
Take care of your health through exercise and proper nutrition and take all medications as your doctor prescribes. If you have risk factors for carotid artery disease you should talk with your health care professional. If you have any symptoms, never hesitate or delay to seek help. Minutes are critical. It’s up to you to do all you can to reduce your risk. No surprise – prevention is the best medicine!
Copyright © 2018 Triad Diagnostics - All Rights Reserved.