Doc Talk: Carotid Artery Disease
We often hear about carotid arteries but what are they?
Well, they're the arteries that carry blood to the brain.
And when plaque starts to build up inside them, that means big problems for your brain but there are ways to prevent carotid artery disease.
These little gateways to the brain, carotid arteries, may be the very same gateways that cause a massive stroke.
Holy Spirit Vascular Surgeon, Doctor Joseph Campbell said, "It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in America, and millions of Americans are affected by it."
Those strokes tend to happen once someone already suffers from carotid artery disease which is when the arteries become damaged or narrow due to plaque build up.
The problem is, many people don't even know that they have carotid artery disease until after they have a stroke.
"Many patients will have serious blockages but no symptoms, and unfortunately about 50% of patients, the first symptom will be a major stroke," Doctor Campbell said.
And even those patients who show symptoms of the disease show it by frequently having TIA's or mini-strokes.
First, we look at what causes carotid artery disease.
Doctor Campbell said, "Principle cause would be smoking and elevated cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension and aging."
These causes are all preventable which is why Vascular Surgeon, Doctor Joseph Campbell encourages anyone with a family history of the disease, strokes, smoking, high cholesterol or blood pressure, to get screened.
That screening will show the severity of those arterial blockages in hopes that you can start to fight the disease before it ever results in a stroke.
If caught early enough, carotid artery disease can be treated with medication but if it's more serious, stenting or surgery with a few days to recover in the hospital may be necessary.