What is Carotid Artery Disease?
Carotid Artery Disease is where the major arteries in your neck become clogged or blocked; it results in reduced blood circulation to the brain and head.
Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid Artery Disease often doesn’t produce any symptoms in the early stages. This is called Asymptomatic.
Where symptoms are experienced, they can include:
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA) are mini-strokes and symptoms can last from a few moments to an hour, followed by a full recovery within 24 hours. During a TIA you may:
- Feel weakness, numbness, paralysis or tingling of your face, arm or legs – either on one side or both sides
- Blurred or lost vision in one or both eyes (similar to a window shutter coming down) – Amaurosis fugax
- Slurred speech & difficulty understanding directions
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Swallowing difficulties
- Severe headache
- Nausea & vomiting
If you think someone has had a TIA or Stroke
Remember the FAST test as the easy way to recognise the common signs of a TIA or stroke. If the person has a problem with any of these things, call 000 immediately (do not drive yourself!)
- Facial weakness – can the person smile; has their mouth or eyes drooped?
- Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
- Speech difficulty – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
- Time to act – act FAST and call 000 immediately.
Complications of Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid Artery Disease complications include stroke and death. This is a serious disease and needs immediate attention.
Causes of Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid Artery Disease occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of your carotid arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. This is called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
The artery may become totally blocked, or a piece of the plaque may break off and form a blood clot that travels through your bloodstream and causes a stroke by blocking an artery in your brain.
Risk factors for Carotid Artery Disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Frequent binge drinking
- High fat or salt diet
Carotid Artery Disease Treatment
Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease and whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms.
Asymptotic Carotid Artery Disease
If your Carotid Artery Disease is asymptomatic, you will generally be asked to address lifestyle issues such as smoking and obesity, ensure you eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
You may also be advised to take high blood pressure medication, blood thinning medication, medication to reduce cholesterol or other medication to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Symptomatic Carotid Artery Disease
If you have symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease or if your carotid arteries are severely narrowed without any symptoms, then we will generally recommend surgery.
Depending on your symptoms and a range of other factors, you will undergo a Carotid Endarterectomy and patch.
Carotid Endarterectomy is where Dr Williams makes an incision in your neck and removes the plaque contained in your artery.
Dr Williams will discuss the procedure and its complications in detail with you during your consultation.