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What is carotid artery disease?

Carotid artery disease is a disease in which waxy deposits and fatty substances called plaque clog the carotid arteries which are the blood vessels that deliver blood to the brain and the head. This blockage increases the risk of having a stroke, a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or seriously reduced.

Possible Causes:

Carotid artery disease is a condition in which fatty deposits called plaques clog the carotid arteries – blood vessels that deliver blood to the brain and head. This increases the risk of stroke – a medical emergency.
 
Factors that contribute to clogging of the carotid arteries are:

  • Smoking.
  • High blood cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood sugar.

Risk Factors:

If you have the following risk factors, you should take steps to prevent carotid artery disease:

  • Diabetes: people who have diabetes are four times more likely to have carotid artery disease than those who don’t.
  • Family history of atherosclerosis.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Metabolic syndrome: this is a group of risk factors – large waistline (abdominal obesity), a high triglyceride level (a type of fat found in the blood), a low HDL cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. If you have three of these five, you have metabolic syndrome.
  • Older age: as you age, your risk for atherosclerosis increases.
  • Smoking: smoking can damage and tighten blood vessels, lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels, and raise blood pressure. Smoking also can limit how much oxygen reaches the body’s tissues.
  • Cholesterol: high LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and low HDL (“good” cholesterol).
  • Poor diet: foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

Signs and Symptoms:

In the early stages, carotid artery disease symptoms may not be very noticeable. It’s only when the brain is deprived of blood, that the symptoms of a stroke can be seen. This is a serious medical emergency. 

For some people, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), often called a “mini-stroke,” is the first sign of carotid artery disease. During a TIA, you may experience some or all of the symptoms of a stroke. However, these symptoms disappear on their own within approximately 24 hours.

Diagnosis:

In a physical exam, the specialist at Medcare will listen for a changed sound over the carotid artery, that could indicate narrowing of the artery.

While doing a carotid artery test, the doctor will also check your physical and mental capabilities including your strength, memory and speech.

The doctor may suggest an ultrasound, MRI/CT scan or CT angiography/MR angiography to confirm the diagnosis. You can have all these diagnostics done conveniently at Medcare.

Treatment Options:

The vascular surgery specialist at Medcare will review your diagnosis and suggest the best carotid artery disease treatment for you. If the blockage of the carotid arteries is moderate, it may be possible to manage it by making certain lifestyle changes and consuming medication that reduce blood pressure or cholesterol. For severe carotid artery blockage, treatment options are:

  • Carotid artery surgery  or endarterectomy: the surgeon will open the affected carotid artery and remove the plaques.
  • Carotid angioplasty and stenting: this is chosen if the blockage is difficult to reach with carotid endarterectomy or if surgery is deemed to be too risky. A balloon is threaded by a catheter to the area of the blockage, and is inflated to widen the artery. A small stent is inserted to keep the artery from narrowing again. You are given local anaesthesia for this procedure.
FAQs: الأسئلة الشائعة:
  • What lifestyle changes should I make to manage my carotid artery disease?

    A: It’s important that you modify your lifestyle to keep your carotid artery disease under control. It is recommended to:

    • Consult a doctor to determine whether your diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol need management or medication.
    • Quit smoking.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Keep your weight under control.
    • Work out regularly.
    • Limit your alcohol consumption.
  • I had a TIA, but I feel absolutely fine now. Do I need to take any special care?

    A: Yes, you need to manage your health carefully to prevent a stroke, which is a serious condition. A TIA is a powerful warning, and if you are not careful, a stroke may follow within days or weeks or months. Consult a doctor to investigate underlying causes, a treatment plan and lifestyle changes.

  • What is the recovery process after a carotid endarterectomy?

    A: This procedure will involve hospitalisation for a few days. There will be an incision and stitches on your neck which will be removed later. You will require complete rest for a few days, and you may resume work a few weeks later. Check with your doctor before restarting activities such as driving, exercise and any other exertion.

  • I have been advised to get a carotid angioplasty and stenting. How will life change after that?

    A: Discuss with your doctor and ask when you can go back to your daily activities such as work, driving, exercise or other forms of exertion after this procedure. Post the procedure, be aware of any warning signs that you need to look out for, and report them to your doctor. It’s important to follow a healthy lifestyle, including good diet, no smoking and weight management. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and schedule follow up consultations.

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