Carotid Artery Disease
The carotid artery is the major artery that supplies blood from the chest to the brain. When this artery becomes narrowed or blocked due to plaque build up from cholesterol, calcium, or fibrous tissue, it is known as carotid artery disease (CAD). This condition is serious and can cause a stroke.
CAD Risk and Prevention
Carotid artery disease is more likely to develop with age, and risk increases with the presence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol. Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent the onset of CAD. A most crucial means of prevention is to refrain from smoking. Along with smoking cessation, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent carotid artery disease.
Carotid artery disease may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. In fact, unfortunately, the first symptom of CAD is often a stroke. However, identifying the warning signs of an impending stroke and immediately seeking emergency treatment if these symptoms become evident can make a great difference in achieving a favorable outcome:
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling on one side of the body (such as an arm or leg).
- Inability to control movement in an arm or leg.
- Loss of vision in one eye (like a shade coming down).
- Slurring words.
These symptoms can be signs of transient ischemic attack (TIA) and may go away within 24 hours. They should not be ignored, even if they do pass. Call 911 immediately if you experience or observe the above symptoms.
A routine physical exam which includes listening to the heartbeat, taking blood pressure, and asking about medical history may indicate the presence of carotid artery disease. If it is suspected, a physician may perform a carotid diplex ultrasound, which uses sound waves to monitor blood flow. If more information is necessary, imaging tests may be recommended.
How an NYM physician treats carotid artery disease depends on the severity of the condition and ranges from suggesting lifestyle changes to prescribing medications to recommending surgery. At NYM, the following surgical procedures are performed:
- Carotid Endarterectomy: This is when a surgeon makes an incision in the neck and removes the plaque that has built up inside the inner lining of the artery.
- Angioplasty and Stenting: This is a less invasive procedure where a surgeon inserts a long, thin tube called a catheter through a small puncture site in the groin.
In each case, the physician balances the benefits of each procedure with the patient's medical history to determine the best approach.
For an appointment, call 718.780.3288.