Carotid Artery Disease (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
In this Article
- What is carotid artery disease?
- What are the causes of carotid artery disease?
- What are the risk factors for carotid artery disease?
- What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
- How is carotid artery disease diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for carotid artery disease?
- Surgery for carotid artery disease
- What are the complications of carotid artery disease?
- Can carotid artery disease be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for carotid artery disease?
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
What are the risk factors for carotid artery disease?
The risk of narrowing carotid arteries is the same as the risk for those diseases associated with narrowing of arteries anywhere else in the body, including heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Those at risk include indivuals who smoke and those with high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, poorly controlled diabetes, family history of atherosclerosis, and advanced age.
Metabolic syndrome also increases the risk for carotid artery disease. It is a grouping of many of the above listed diseases and to make the diagnosis, three of five of the following need to be present:
- high blood pressure,
- high blood sugar,
- high triglycerides (one of the types of fat in the blood),
- low HDL levels (another type of fat), and/or
- large waistline, a sign of abdominal obesity.
What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
Carotid artery disease in itself has no symptoms. It is only when blood flow to parts of the brain is decreased that the diagnosis is made. Decreased blood supply to the brain may result in either a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or stroke (CVA, or cerebrovascular accident).
A transient ischemic attack is a stroke-like group of symptoms that resolves on its own and should be considered a warning sign that a stroke is imminent.
Symptoms for a TIA may include:
- weakness and/or numbness on one side of the body including the face,
- difficulty with speech,
- loss of vision,
- loss of balance, or
While the symptoms tend to resolve on their own in a few minutes, they may last up to 24 hours.
Signs and symptoms of a stroke are similar to a TIA but the effects are permanent without successful treatment.
Since there is no way of knowing whether the symptoms will resolve, any of these symptoms should be considered a medical emergency and the patient or family should call 911 to activate the emergency medical services. Individuals who are having stroke symptoms may be candidates for treatment with clot busting drugs or thrombolytics, but the treatment must be initiated within 3 to 4½ hours from the first onset of these symptoms.
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