What is Carotid Disease?
Carotid disease occurs when the carotid arteries become narrowed as a result of atherosclerosis. The carotid arteries act as a transport system, carrying oxygenated blood to the brain. Those arteries become narrowed or completely blocked with a buildup of plaque deposits and calcium in patients with the disease. The buildup causes a reduction of oxygen to the brain that can lead to stroke if left untreated.
Those with the disease may not display symptoms until it severely narrows or blocks a carotid artery. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg
- Confusion or dizziness
- Difficulty speaking or understanding
- Blurred vision
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache
- Difficulty swallowing
- Paralysis of one side of the body
The risk factors that may increase your risk for carotid artery disease include:
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
- High blood-fat levels
- Family history
- Sleep apnea
- Lack of exercise
How is Carotid Disease Treated?
The treatment for carotid disease concentrates on reducing symptoms and preventing further progression of the disease. In most cases, lifestyle changes, exercise, and claudication medications are enough to slow carotid artery disease progression. Surgical intervention may be necessary in cases where these treatments prove ineffective.
- Regular physical activity. Exercise more frequently through non-strenuous training.
- Healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat to help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Smoking cessation. Avoid tobacco use. If you smoke, ask your surgeon to recommend a cessation program that will work for you.
- Some medications. Your doctor may recommend taking aspirin or a similar antiplatelet medicine to prevent serious complications from the carotid disease. Medications may need to be adjusted as the disease progresses.