Coronary artery disease is a fairly well-known condition. Most people in the US are familiar with the signs and are aware of the factors that increase the risk of developing it.
Carotid artery disease is another matter. A large percentage of Americans are unfamiliar with the term, unaware of the symptoms and largely oblivious to the implications that the condition may have on their health.
Carotid Artery Disease: What Is It?
The carotid arteries carry out the important task of delivering oxygenated blood to the front section of the brain. If these arteries narrow (through build-up of cholesterol or fat), blood flow is restricted, which increases the risk of stroke by a significant margin. Stroke is currently the 3rd most common cause of death in the US.
There are a number of contributing factors that increase the risk of developing carotid artery disease. These include:
- Lack of exercise
- High cholesterol
- Family history
- High blood pressure
Due to the fact that the carotid arteries are so important in the successful function of the body, if blood flow is restricted or stopped, this can result in permanent damage or death, in a relatively short space of time. As a result, it’s vital to book regular health check-ups with a specialist, particularly if you fall into one of the higher risk categories.
Carotid Artery Disease: The Diagnostic Process
Carotid artery disease is, regrettably, something of a silent killer. In most cases, patients don’t experience symptoms until stroke occurs. Although the stroke itself may not be fatal, permanent damage is a very real risk; and damage can occur in as little as 3 hours.
As a result, it’s advisable to arrange regular check-ups with a cardiovascular expert. It’s possible to detect evidence of carotid artery disease through a stethoscope (applied to the neck) which can detect interrupted blood flow. However, this method of diagnosis is not 100% reliable and some blockages could easily pass undetected.
A better way of diagnosing the condition is to undergo more thorough testing.
- Diagnostic ultrasound. Ultrasound is completely non-invasive, which makes it an appealing choice in terms of diagnosis. By using a Doppler, the doctor will be able to study the movement of blood through the arteries and identify any problem areas.
- Carotid angiogram. This procedure is invasive, but is by far the most effective way of identifying carotid artery disease, even in the early stages. The doctor injects a dye into the artery, then studies the movement of the dye on an X-ray screen. This provides a really clear image of the situation, though there is a small risk of complication.
Arranging Diagnostic Treatment
If you’re concerned about carotid artery disease and are worried that you fall into a high-risk group, then it makes sense to arrange to be tested, in order to identify any issue before it turns into a major health problem. To find out more about any of the diagnostic treatments mentioned above, or to book an appointment, simply get in touch.