Carotid arteries are the arteries that run on both sides of your neck. These supply blood to your brain. Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) can cause these arteries to harden and narrow, resulting in atherosclerosis, or carotid artery disease. This stops the blood from flowing to your brain, and may cause a heart attack or stroke.
A stroke is caused by atherosclerotic plaque rupturing, causing a small blood clot or piece of plaque to travel through smaller blood vessels into the brain.
The risk factors for a stroke are the same as the risk factors for a heart attack. These can include a lack of physical exercise, diabetes, a family history of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, having unhealthy cholesterol levels, having an unhealthy diet, having metabolic syndrome, and your age.
Carotid artery disease can often have no symptoms until the artery is significantly narrowed or blocked. When this happens, you will experience what is called a transient ischemic attack, or a TIA.
A transient ischemic attack is what is known as a “warning stroke,” and is often the first sign of carotid artery disease. While a warning stroke is a warning sign that you are at an immediate risk of having a stroke, not everyone will experience one. A warning stroke will not tell you when you are going to have a stroke; however, nearly all people who experience a TIA will have a stroke within the year. What a warning stroke does tell you is that you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
TIA symptoms are the same as that of a regular stroke, including vertigo, a sudden, severe headache, an inability to move one of your limbs or a sudden weakness on one side of the body, a sudden difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes, and a difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
While the symptoms are similar, they are not the same. A TIA is caused by a temporary blockage or decreased blood flow. However, because the symptoms are so similar to each other, it’s important to get medical attention immediately. Getting help may prevent a stroke from happening in the future.
An endarterectomy is a surgery on the carotid arteries, in which your surgeon will remove the buildup of plaque. This is done when your arteries are blocked or narrowed by at least 50%. It can lower your risk for a stroke.
The carotid angioplasty and stenting procedure is appropriate when your condition is stable. The objective is to unblock the carotid arteries to restore blood flow to the brain. In this procedure, a thin tube with a small, deflated balloon on its tip is threaded into the carotid artery into the narrowed or blocked location. The balloon is inflated, which pushes the plaque against the artery walls. After this, a small mesh tube called a “stent” is put into the artery. This supports the artery walls, preventing a new narrowing or blockage.
Stroke treatment is determined by the length of time you have been suffering from stroke symptoms. If your stroke is due to a blood clot, a clot-dissolving medication called TPA can be injected into your vein. However, it must be given within 4 hours of your first symptoms. The sooner you receive the procedure, the better your chances for recovery are.
If you are interested in learning more about our treatments for carotid artery disease or want to schedule a procedure for yourself or a loved one, South Valley Vascular is here to help! We have 5 office locations, conveniently located in Visalia, Hanford, Porterville, Tulare, and Fresno. Our expert care is never too far from home.