Symptoms that appear when ‘neck blood vessels’ are narrowed… What is carotid artery stenosis?

Carotid arteryㅣSource: Hidak
The carotid artery is a large blood vessel that branches off from the aorta from the heart. Of the blood pumped from the heart, 80% of the blood to the brain passes through the carotid artery. The carotid artery is divided into the internal carotid artery and the external carotid artery, which supply blood from the common carotid artery to the brain. This is called carotid artery occlusion and stenosis disease.

According to data released by the National Health Insurance Corporation, 100,000 people were treated for carotid artery occlusion and stenosis in 2020. Of these, 60,000 are men and 40,000 are women. This is an increase of 38,000 from the number of patients in 2016, with an average annual growth rate of 12.7%.

In 2020, the age group with the largest number of patients was in their 60s, accounting for 35.3% of the total. Those in their 70s were followed by 30.7%, followed by those in their 50s with 17.2%. The number of patients per 100,000 population was 194.5 in 2020, an increase of 59.3% compared to 2016.

Professor Seo Kwon-duk of the Department of Neurology at National Health Insurance Ilsan Hospital said, “Since smoking acts as a major risk factor for carotid artery occlusion and stenosis, the prevalence is higher among men with a high smoking rate than women.” “he explained. The following is what Professor Seo Kwon-duk explained about carotid artery disease.

Causes of carotid artery stenosis

Since carotid artery stenosis progresses due to atherosclerosis, factors that can cause atherosclerosis may be the cause of carotid artery stenosis. Atherosclerosis progresses slowly with age, but may progress more rapidly when there are diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and dyslipidemia (hyperlipidemia). Smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity are also risk factors for the progression of arteriosclerosis.

Main symptoms of carotid artery stenosis

Since the carotid artery is the largest blood vessel supplying blood to the brain, when the carotid artery narrows, the blood supply to the brain becomes insufficient and various symptoms may appear.

If carotid artery stenosis progresses severely, a cerebral infarction (ischemic stroke) in which the brain is damaged due to insufficient blood flow may occur. The stage in which carotid artery stenosis is not severe is also a problem. Atherosclerosis causes ‘atherosclerotic plaque’, a lump formed by the accumulation of cholesterol or inflammatory cells in the blood vessel wall, within the carotid artery. . Atherosclerotic plaques do not disappear once they are formed.

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Symptoms of cerebral infarction include paralysis of the face, arm, and leg opposite to the damaged brain, and speech disorders. In addition, if the carotid artery stenosis becomes severe, the blood flow to the eye is insufficient, and transient dark vision, a symptom of temporary difficulty in seeing the same eye, may appear.

Diagnosis and examination techniques for carotid artery stenosis

Stenosis usually occurs where the external and internal carotid arteries diverge. Therefore, a simple method of ultrasound examination of only this area can confirm the disease of blood vessels. If the blood flow velocity is increased more than a certain standard on carotid ultrasound or if there is a large atherosclerotic plaque, additional tests may be performed for accurate evaluation. The exact condition can be known by performing computed tomography angiography or magnetic resonance angiography.

2 ways to treat carotid artery stenosis

Carotid endarterectomy and carotid artery stenting. It is known that the risk of complications within one month after surgery or procedure is lower with carotid endarterectomy than with carotid artery stenting. However, there is no significant difference when comparing long-term prognosis. There are patients who cannot undergo carotid endarterectomy depending on the underlying disease and characteristics. In this case, carotid artery stenting is performed.

Prevention of carotid artery stenosis

Since carotid artery stenosis occurs as the atherosclerotic plaques caused by arteriosclerosis gradually grow, risk factors for atherosclerosis must be controlled. Drug treatment for hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia (hyperlipidemia), which are controllable risk factors, should be actively carried out. Also, if carotid artery stenosis is confirmed, you must stop smoking. You need to take care not to become overweight due to excessive drinking and lack of exercise.

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