Reduced blood flow in the carotid arteries requires treatment, depending on the severity of the artery damage or blockage. Treatments include lifestyle changes (for mild cases), medications and sometimes surgery or stenting (for severe disease and to prevent stroke). The goal for any treatment option is to prevent a stroke.
Lifestyle changes as treatment options would include:
- Limiting alcohol
- Exercising at least 30 minutes a day
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Managing chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes
- Getting annual medical care
- Eating a healthy diet
Drug medication is also a treatment option for beginning stages of carotid artery disease. It may include:
- Plaque reducing medication
- Cholesterol medication
- Blood pressure medication
- A blood thinner
For more severe artery damage or blockage, surgery or stenting may be required to open the artery to increase blood flow.
- Carotid endarterectomy is a common procedure to surgically remove the plaque buildup to prevent future mini-stroke or full stroke. The surgeon makes an incision in the neck at the area of the blockage, removes the plaque and diseased areas and stitches the artery back together.
- Carotid stenting is a newer treatment and is less invasive than the endarterectomy. It is beneficial for patients who have other medical conditions that make surgery such as endarterectomy risky. With this procedure, a small puncture is made in the groin area and a catheter is wound to the blocked or compromised area. A small balloon is inflated to open the artery and a small metal mesh tube (stent) is inserted to support the artery. The stent stays permanently in the diseased area.