Strokes – when blood to the brain is blocked or when an artery bleeds into the brain – are potentially catastrophic. One specific stroke trigger is from a blockage in the important carotid artery in your neck. McLeod Vascular Specialist Carmen Piccolo, DO, RPVI explains the causes, symptoms and treatments:
Here is a summary of Dr. Piccolo’s comments:
Stroke is a very devastating and debilitating disease that affects a large number of Americans every year. The disease also affects both personal and governmental finances as large sums of money are spent each year trying to 1) prevent it and 2) deal with the aftermath of stroke.
There are a lot of different causes for stroke. One of the more common is blockages in the arteries going to the brain. These blockages and plaque can break off and go to the brain causing the stroke.
The most common type of stroke is an ischemic stroke where there is lack of blood flow to an artery in the brain. Depending on what artery is blocked, it gives different symptoms to the patient and how they present.
Patients should get evaluated to find out what type the stroke they have had. Some of the symptoms of stroke are slurred speech, difficulty with movement of one of the arms or legs, or one side of the body, and visual changes where you actually lose vision. Those are the more common signs of a stroke that may be caused by disease in the carotid arteries going to the brain.
There are also other kinds of stroke that occur in the back of the brain. Patients with this type of stroke can experience symptoms like suddenly falling or having severe dizziness. Some people have nausea or vomiting. There are different treatment options depending on where and which vessel is affected.
The testing to look for blockages in the carotid artery is actually quite simple and very painless. It is an easy ultrasound of the neck, which we perform in the hospital or as an outpatient in the office. Depending on the extent of the blockages, the location of the blockages, and your symptoms other testing may be needed before treatment to fix the blockages.
Surgical treatment of the blockages depends on your symptoms, the location, and the extent of the blockages. If you have very mild blockages in your arteries the best treatment is maximal medical therapy, which includes anti-platelets, and lipid-lowering medicines along with dietary changes. Eating heart-healthy foods, stopping smoking, controlling diabetes, and controlling your blood pressure aresome of the initial steps in treating underlying vascular disease.
If your blockages are more severe and especially if they are related to symptoms of a stroke: lack of vision in the eye, numbness in the hands and/or legs, decrease in motor function of one of the arms or one of the legs or one side of your body, then further treatment may be needed.
Sometimes the treatment includes the vascular surgeon making an incision in the neck and cleaning out the artery or the vascular surgeon coming from the groin with a catheter and placing a stent to keep the vessel open.
The extent of treatment needed can only be determined after a full evaluation by a vascular specialist
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