Just like every other part of your body, your brain needs oxygen. And just like every other part of your body, oxygen-rich blood is delivered to the brain by arteries. Healthy arteries carry blood to the brain without restriction, but unhealthy vessels can be blocked by build-ups of fatty deposits called plaque. Our brain receives the most of its blood supply via the carotid arteries. Development of plaque in the carotid arteries, called “carotid artery stenosis”, can lead to a stroke, also known as “cerebro-vascular accident” or “CVA”. It is a serious complication, which however can be prevented, if you see a vascular specialist in a timely manner.
What should New York City residents know about the causes of carotid artery stenosis?
Carotid artery stenosis is only one of many forms of a disease, called arterial atherosclerosis. If the arterial atherosclerosis affects blood vessels of the heart, it is called “coronary artery disease”. If it develops in the arteries of our legs, it is known as “peripheral arterial disease” or “PAD”.
There are known medical conditions contributing to the formation of arterial atherosclerosis. They are known under the name of “risk factors”. Among them are six so-called “modifiable” risk factors, including high cholesterol, hypertension, tobacco abuse, sedentary life style, obesity and diabetes. The one so-called “non-modifiable” risk factor is genetic predisposition, meaning presence of early-onset atherosclerosis in a first-degree relative.
What are the symptoms of carotid artery stenosis?
One of the stressful aspects of carotid artery stenosis is the absence of the symptoms. Often, the only indicator of the disease is sudden onset of what is called “transient ischemic attack”, or “TIA”, also known as “mini stroke”. This is a condition when a brief interruption of blood flow to a specific area of the brain is fully reversible and usually lasts less than 24 hours. With the stroke the above changes are permanent.
The typical symptoms of both TIA and CVA may include slurred speech, vision changes, loss of coordination, ability to feel or to move one or another part of the body, difficulty understanding speech or writing words or combination of any of the above. TIA is temporary, with symptoms lasting no more than 24 hours, and is a warning sign of impending stroke.
If the symptoms of a TIA do not go away after 24 hours a stroke occurs. This long-term lack of oxygen to the brain can cause permanent damage, in some cases leading to death. Both a TIA and a CVA are considered medical emergencies. If you or anybody you know experience these symptoms, call for emergency help immediately.
Can carotid artery disease be identified before serious complications occur?
If you believe you are at risk for carotid artery disease, there are steps you can take to diagnose and treat the problem before serious symptoms occur. Working with an experienced vein center such as New York Vein Treatment Center gives you access to the resources you need to address the problem quickly and effectively. There is a wide armamentarium of tests, including vascular duplex sonography, computed and positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and angiography that can identify presence, exact location and degree of stenosis of the carotid artery. Once a diagnosis is reached, treatment can follow.
Your leading vein doctor will recommend treatment based on the severity of the narrowing in the carotid artery among other factors. Mild stenosis can often be addressed through lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising regularly, maintaining blood pressure and sugar control will reduce the progression of plaque build-up. Stenosis of moderate degree often requires treatment with so-called anti-platelet medications, such as Aspirin or Plavix, in addition to the above lifestyle changes.
More advanced, severe stenosis or symptomatic stenosis of any degree usually requires one or another form of intervention. Minimally invasive approach involves placement of a stent into the diseased carotid artery through a needle. The traditional open surgery, called “carotid endarterectomy”, is more effective and significantly safer. During this procedure, plaque is being removed from the carotid artery through a small incision.
Prophylaxis, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting arteries and veins, including varicose vein treatment, is an effective way to approach pathological conditions affecting the circulatory system of your body. If you’re worried about your risk of carotid artery stenosis, want to get rid of varicose veins, are seeking information about the cost of spider vein treatment or have any other questions concerning circulation, please contact New York Vein Treatment Center at (212) 575-8346. We will be happy to help you any time!