Carotid Artery Disease: Stroke & Mini-Stroke
The carotids are arteries on either side of the neck that supply blood to the brain. Atherosclerosis in which plaque builds up inside the carotids causes a reduction of blood flow. This condition also called ‘hardening of the arteries’ can lead to stroke. Pieces of the plaque may break loose and circulate upward to the eye or brain. When a clot lodges in the cerebral artery, it can partially or completely stop the flow of blood to the brain and causes a mini-stroke or stroke. This is called Carotid Artery Disease.
When the clot reduces the amount of blood that flows to the brain temporarily, it can cause a mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack or TIA). The symptoms of TIA resemble those of a regular stroke but they may last for a few minutes and no more than 24 hours. During this time, the person may have difficulty recognizing words and have slurred speech. They may have changes in vision, including complete vision loss. Numbness, weakness or loss of function on one side of the body or face may occur, along with a temporary loss of coordination.
A clot that results in a total loss of blood flow to the brain causes a stroke (cerebral vascular accident or CVA). The person may experience the same symptoms as those of a mini-stroke in addition to a loss of consciousness. Unlike a TIA, a stroke is not temporary and it results in damage to brain cells.
You should never ignore the symptoms of TIA. About one-third of all people who have a mini-stroke will have a stroke, often within 48 hours of the initial attack. A mini-stroke is your warning that you may have the carotid artery disease. You need to seek the services of a vascular doctor or vascular surgeon to diagnose your condition.
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is a painless, non-invasive test that detects blockages in the carotid arteries. Because it is non-invasive, you do not have to change your eating schedule or stop taking some medications prior to the test.
An angiogram is an invasive test that uses a type of x-ray to detect the exact location of carotid artery disease. You will need to stop some medications and refrain from solid foods and liquids for a specified time prior to the test.
Early detection of carotid artery disease is important. The staff at Vascular Health Center can evaluate your condition and develop a plan to reduce your risk of stroke. Your personalized treatment plan may include making better lifestyle choices to reduce your risk. Some treatment options include taking anti-platelet and anticoagulant medications (blood thinners), carotid artery stenting, and surgery to repair the damage to the blocked artery.
It is never a good idea to take a “wait and see” approach to carotid artery disease. Contact us today to have your condition evaluated before you suffer the debilitating symptoms of a stroke.