How carotid artery disease is treated depends on the patient’s symptoms, the status of all blood vessels supplying blood flow to the brain, and the degree of narrowing in the carotid artery.
Medication such as aspirin or other antiplatelet medicines can help prevent obstruction of the carotid arteries, as well as cholesterol-modifying medications or lipid therapy, which helps lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or the “bad”) cholesterol.
Sometimes more aggressive treatment is needed to restore and improve blood flow to the brain. These option might include:
- Angioplasty and Stenting - During this non-surgical procedure, a balloon attached to a small catheter is inflated within an artery to flatten the plaque against the artery wall, increasing the artery's diameter. In most cases, a stent, a metal-mesh tube, is expanded and left inside the artery to support the expansion and maintain blood flow.
- Carotid Endarterectomy – With this surgical procedure, plaque is removed from the inner lining of the carotid arteries.
As with many cardiovascular conditions, lifestyle factors can contribute to carotid artery disease. The first step a patient should take is to modify any behavior that increases the risk for carotid artery disease. Some of these changes should include:
- Quitting smoking,
- Controlling high blood pressure,
- Lowering cholesterol,
- Losing weight,
- Controlling diabetes, and
- Reducing alcohol intake.