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Carotid artery occlusive disease: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About carotid artery occlusive disease

Carotid artery occlusive disease refers to an occlusion or blockage of the carotid artery. There are two carotid arteries in every individual, placed on either sides of the neck. These arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the brain. Any blockage in these arteries may seriously affect the brain and its functions.

Carotid artery occlusive disease: Incidence, age and sex

Carotid artery occlusive disease is mainly seen in aged individuals. However, it may also be encountered in young adults. Men are more predisposed to this disease as compared with women.

Signs and symptoms of carotid artery occlusive disease: Diagnosis

Clinical features may be seen when the carotid arteries get progressively occluded and results in significant narrowing of the artery. This results in reduced blood supply to brain thus damaging the brain tissue and resulting in transient ischaemic attack or stroke. The clinical features include headache, nausea, vomiting, fainting spells followed by impairment of vision or slurring of speech. Sometimes an affected individual may exhibit sudden weakness in leg or arm coupled with drooling of saliva and drooping of face on one side. In severe instances, neurological deficit may also be noticed. Doppler ultrasonography or CT angiogram of carotid artery may help in establishing the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of carotid artery occlusive disease

Several risk factors can trigger the occlusion of the carotid artery, of which aging is most significant. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, emotional stress and smoking.

Lifestyle modifications like maintaining optimal weight and regular physical exercises like running, brisk walking, cycling and swimming are helpful in preventing the progression of occlusion. Appropriate dietary habits help not only in shedding excess weight but also reduce blood cholesterol and lipids. Low salt along with low fat diet is advisable. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is healthy. Smoking cessation provides immediate benefit by drastically reducing risk of occluding carotid arteries by atherosclerosis.

Carotid artery occlusive disease: Complications

Significant narrowing of carotid arteries, if left untreated may result in death of the brain cells which clinically present as stroke. It may also end up in sudden death if not managed timely and effectively.

Carotid artery occlusive disease: Treatment

It is essential to evaluate the underlying cause of occlusion of carotid artery and treat it effectively. The treatment includes certain medications like anti hypertensives for controlling high blood pressure. Lipid lowering drugs are recommended in individuals with abnormal values of lipids in blood tests. Lifestyle modifications like weight management, good dietary habits smoking cessation and regular physical exercise are helpful in delaying the progression of disease. The doctor may also prescribe aspirin medication which is to be taken regularly. In certain instances where an individual may experience extensive neurological deficit, surgical procedures like carotid endarterectomy or balloon stent angioplasty may provide benefit. Balloon stent angioplasty is a minimally invasive surgery which results in minimal post operative complications. Other measures include supportive and symptomatic management which may help an individual maintain good quality of life.