We are all aware that strokes are a serious medical condition, but although strokes can be caused by a variety of different things, carotid artery disease is also a major factor.
Build up of cholesterol often takes place over many years causing few problems, but when a small piece of the cholesterol plaque breaks away and triggers a blockage in smaller blood vessels in the brain, the patient can start to experience regular transient ischemic attacks and, ultimately, a major stroke. So what are the neck artery blockage symptoms you should look out for?
There are four carotid arteries in the neck region: two at the front of the neck and two at the rear, all of which merge into the basilar artery leading into the base of the brain.
The vast majority of the time, a patient will show no neck artery blockage symptoms and it is not unusual for a patient to have some degree of blockage in their carotid arteries for years before experiencing health problems.
In some cases, a partial blockage in the carotid artery will not be picked up until a patient is of advanced years, and if it has not been causing any problems it will probably be left alone.
It is usually not until a patient begins to experience mini strokes that carotid artery disease is diagnosed, but if the first warning sign of a blockage in the carotid artery is a major and cataclysmic stroke, it might be too late to do anything about the problem.
Neck artery blockage symptoms include:
- Loss of eyesight: a blocked carotid artery will lead to blurred vision and, eventually, a total loss of eyesight on one side of the body as blood flow is reduced.
- Tingling and paralysis: once blood flow to one side of the body is impaired, the patient will experience numbness, weakness, tingling, or even complete paralysis down that side of the body. This sensation commonly affects the face, arm and leg on once side.
- Dizziness: reduced blood flow to the brain caused by a blocked carotid artery will lead to dizziness, fainting and confusion as the brain is slowly starved of oxygen and faculties are impaired.
- Problems swallowing: a blockage in the carotid artery will eventually place pressure on the nerves in the neck that help you to swallow. If the condition is not treated promptly, nerve damage can ensue.
- What are the risk factors of carotid artery disease?
The risk factors for carotid artery disease are the same as those for cardiovascular disease. These include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Lack of exercise
- Family history of carotid artery disease
What is the treatment for carotid artery disease?
Once a patient has been diagnosed with carotid artery disease, other than medication to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, there are a number of treatments available. The patient will be advised to make some major lifestyle changes including stopping smoking, limiting the intake of alcohol, introducing exercise into their daily routine, and an overhaul of the diet to include a reduction in fatty and salt laden foods.