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What You Need to Know About Carotid Artery Disease

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Many people who suddenly have a stroke do not know that their condition was triggered by a manageable disease known as carotid artery disease. Below are important things that you should know about this disease.

What It Is

Carotid artery disease refers to the narrowing of the carotid arteries due to the accumulation of plaque. A carotid artery exists on each side of the neck. Each of these arteries is divided into two (internal and external carotid artery). The internal section takes blood to one side of the brain while the external section supplies blood to one side of the face. A blockage in any of these sections affects the part that was supplied by that blocked vessel.

How It Is Detected

Some people with carotid artery disease show some symptoms, while others don't. Carotid artery disease can be detected during routine medical examinations. A doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to the way in which blood is flowing through those arteries. People who may have this disease produce a whooshing sound that indicates that blood is struggling to flow through those narrowed arteries. An ultrasound test can then be conducted to confirm that the patient has carotid artery disease. This ultrasound test is affordable, easy and quick. The results will determine the next course of action.

The Treatment Options

Your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the rate at which your blood can clot. Various drugs, such as aspirin, can be given for this purpose. This type of treatment is usually selected when the extent of the narrowing is still minimal.

Surgery is the treatment option of choice in case the artery has narrowed to less than half its original capacity. A vascular surgeon may simply operate and remove the plague that caused the narrowing of the vessels. Alternatively, a balloon and stent may be inserted into the narrow artery to limit the chance that it will become blocked. This second option is undertaken for patients with extensive carotid artery narrowing.

It is important for you to consult a vascular surgeon for advice in case you have the symptoms of carotid artery disease, such as loss of balance and difficulty when speaking. This will ensure that prompt action can be taken to diagnose and treat the disease before it becomes life-threatening. The surgeon will also explain what you can do to prevent the disease from worsening in case you are confirmed to have it.