Carotid Atherosclerosis Symptoms and Treatment Options
If you take your fingers and press them to either side of your neck, you will likely be able to feel your pulse. That’s your carotid artery, and it’s a pretty important one. Further up in your head region it forks into an internal and an external branch, and the internal one of those services your brain. Unfortunately, where this fork forks is a place where a condition called carotid atherosclerosis is common.
Before you can understand what the symptoms and treatment for carotid atherosclerosis are, you need to understand what it is. A build up of fat, cholesterol or plaque on the inside of the artery walls that obviously creates a narrowing of that all important blood highway is the simple definition; although there can be some confusion about cause, especially considering the often interchanging of definitions between atherosclerosis vs arteriosclerosis, two different conditions that share similar characteristics. Regardless, carotid atherosclerosis is a buildup of some sort in this neck-framing major artery.
As with atherosclerosis in other parts of the body, not everyone will exhibit symptoms, particularly not until the condition has become serious. Some people go on for years with an ever growing amount of plaque in various arteries and, although the blood flow might be lessened, it’s still getting where it needs to go for the most part, and therefore there may not be any symptoms, at least at first. However, there are some atherosclerosis symptoms that you need to be aware of, particularly because some of them can be dangerous and even signal a carotid artery blockage. Weakness in one arm or leg is a serious symptom, particularly when it is sudden. Carotid atherosclerosis symptoms also include numbness in either the face or in the arms or legs. Serious symptoms include a loss of vision or a speaking impairment. And, neurological effects such as a headache, dizziness and confusion or fainting are also symptoms.
There are various forms of treatment for this condition, and most of them will depend on some factors such as how old you are, how good your overall health is, and what type of other existing health conditions that you may have. One of the first treatment options is to get to the root of atherosclerosis causes, and that means lifestyle changes such as making good dietary changes and quitting smoking along with getting a fair amount of exercise. The condition is reversible in most cases, and lifestyle changes can significantly change the course of the disease and unclog arteries.
In some cases of carotid atherosclerosis however, other treatment methods are required. Some of the more common methods are the use of blood thinners and cholesterol lowering medications, those designed to reduce the amount of fats in the blood. Medications that lower blood pressure might also be used as carotid atherosclerosis treatments. In some cases however, where lifestyle changes and prescription medications fail, surgery may be required. Surgery can be useful in removing plaque in very clogged arteries and in most cases, it can dramatically reduce the risk of having a stroke.
Your doctor will determine what course of treatment is best for you based on the condition of your carotid artery, and your overall health. Regardless of which treatment ends up being the best for you, a reduction of risk factors by quitting smoking, exercising more and eating a sensible diet will help your treatment method be that much more successful.