Carotid Artery Disease (cont.)
In this Article
- Carotid artery disease introduction
- How does carotid artery disease happen?
- What are the risk factors for carotid artery disease?
- What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
- What is a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
- How is carotid artery disease diagnosed
- What's the treatment for carotid artery disease?
- What are the recommended lifestyle changes for carotid artery disease?
- Which drugs can reduce the risk of stroke?
- What medical procedures treat carotid artery disease
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
What Is a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)?
A TIA occurs when there is a low flow of blood or a clot briefly blocks an artery that supplies blood to the brain. With a TIA, you may have the same above symptoms as you would have for a stroke. But the symptoms only last a few minutes or few hours and then resolve.
A TIA is a medical emergency because it is impossible to predict whether it will progress into a major stroke. If you or someone you know experiences any of the above symptoms, get emergency help. Immediate treatment can save your life and increase your chance of a full recovery.
Findings show that someone who has experienced a TIA is 10 times more likely to suffer a major stroke than a person who has not had a TIA.
How Is Carotid Artery Disease Diagnosed?
There are often no symptoms of carotid artery disease until you have a TIA or stroke. That's why it's important to see your doctor regularly for physical examinations. Your doctor may listen to the arteries in your neck with a stethoscope. If an abnormal sound, called a bruit, is heard over an artery or vascular channel, it may reflect turbulent blood flow. That could indicate carotid artery disease.
Listening for a bruit in the neck is a simple, safe, and inexpensive way to screen for stenosis (narrowing) of the carotid artery. As a screening test, though, it's inexact. Some experts believe that bruits may be better predictors of atherosclerotic disease rather than risk of stroke. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have had any symptoms, such as those listed above.
Your doctor may also use a test to diagnose carotid artery disease. Possible tests include the following:
- Carotid ultrasound (standard or Doppler). This noninvasive, painless screening test uses high-frequency sound waves to view the carotid arteries. It looks for plaques and blood clots and determines whether the arteries are narrowed or blocked. A Doppler ultrasound shows the movement of blood through the blood vessels. Ultrasound imaging does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays).
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). This newer imaging technique uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to gather accurate information about the brain and arteries. Then a computer uses this information to generate high-resolution images. An MRA can often detect even small strokes in the brain.
- Computerized tomography angiography (CTA). More detailed than an X-ray, a CT uses X-rays and computer technology to produce cross sectional images of the carotid arteries. Images of the brain can be collected as well. With this imaging test, the scan may reveal areas of damage on the brain. The CT scan uses a low level of radiation.
- Cerebral angiography (carotid angiogram). This procedure is considered the gold standard for imaging the carotid arteries. It is an invasive procedure that lets a doctor see blood flow through the carotid arteries in real time. Cerebral angiography allows the doctor to see narrowing or blockages on a live X-ray screen as contrast dye is injected in the carotid arteries. The procedure provides the best information. It does carry a small risk of serious complications.
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