Blockages in the Brain and Neck vessels
Blockages in the Brain and Neck Vessels | Vascular Neurology of Southern California
When fatty deposits build up on the walls of your blood vessels, you may suffer from reduced blood flow downstream of the blockage.
This blockage can occur anywhere in the body, but it is particularly dangerous when it occurs in the blood vessels of the neck or the brain. In this case, an interruption of blood flow to the brain can lead to stroke, the most common cause of death and disability in the United States.
If you are diagnosed with blockages in the neck or the brain, you will want to seek care from Dr. M. Asif Taqi, a triple-board certified neurointerventionalist, and stroke prevention specialist. With years of experience and extensive expertise in preventing stroke in his patients, you can rest assured that you will be receiving superior medical care. You will also be delighted to discover Dr. Taqi’s incredible ability to connect with his patients. He understands the emotional challenges that present themselves when you or a loved one receive a challenging medical diagnosis. From both his own family experiences and his exhaustive training, he has become the compassionate, caring, and highly skilled surgeon that you will want in your corner. He works to ensure the utmost comfort of each of his patients, taking the time to explain and answer any questions you may have fully. Contact us today to arrange your consultation in Thousand Oaks or West Hills.
What causes blockages in the brain and neck vessels?
Blockages in the blood vessels of the neck and brain develop slowly over time. They occur when buildups of plaque form on the artery wall. Plaque is a deposit that contains calcium, cholesterol, and fibrous tissue, and appears when blood vessels are injured. The process of plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis, a condition that can happen to any blood vessels in the body.
When plaque builds up in the blood vessels of the neck, or the carotid arteries, the body has a hard time delivering oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Blockages in the neck or brain are particularly dangerous and can result in a stroke if left untreated. Additionally, a piece of the plaque may break off and flow into a smaller artery, which could also obstruct blood flow.
What are the risk factors for blockages in the neck and brain?
Many factors contribute to an elevated risk of blockages in the neck and brain. They include:
If you have a close relative with atherosclerosis or carotid artery disease, you have a higher risk of developing a blockage in the neck or brain.
Arteries are more vulnerable to damage (and thus plaque deposits) when there is excess pressure on the artery walls.
Smoking increases blood pressure and heart rate, and nicotine irritates the lining of the blood vessels, which increases your risk for plaque deposits.
You are at greater risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis if you have diabetes.
You are more likely to deposit fats in your arteries if you have high levels of blood cholesterol, particularly LDL and triglycerides.
As you get older, your arteries become more susceptible to injury and are less flexible, making them more prone to blockages.
Having excess weight can increase your risk for atherosclerosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
What are the signs of blockages in the brain or neck vessels?
Atherosclerosis occurs slowly, often without any signs or symptoms. Plaques can gradually build without any warning until blood flow diminishes enough to cause problems. Many people don’t discover that they have blockages in the neck or the brain until they experience either a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, or a full-blown stroke.
Signs and symptoms of a TIA or stroke come on suddenly, and include:
- Numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, usually on one side of the body
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Disorientation or confusion
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble speaking or understanding language
- Severe headache
How are blockages in the brain and neck vessels treated?
Treatments for blockages in the neck and brain depend on the location and extent of the blockage. Regardless of the blockage’s location, the goal of this treatment will be to evacuate the blockage in a timely manner and to prevent future potential strokes. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the blockage and place a stent to ensure proper blood flow through the vessel. These measures may entail lifestyle changes that will look to slow the progression of atherosclerosis or medications to control blood pressure, blood clotting, or buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries. When you meet with Dr. Taqi, he will review all of your medical records and devise a customized treatment plan to address your blockages and prevent stroke.
The most critical thing you can do to prepare for your appointment with Dr. Taqi is to gather all of your medical records. You should include any imaging studies you’ve had done. Though you can request that your files be sent to the office, it is helpful for us if you bring in a DVD copy, just in case. It is also important that you bring a comprehensive list of any medications and over-the-counter drugs you are taking. Dr. Taqi will be happy to answer any question you have, so bring a list of these as well.
There are several ways to find blood vessel blockages in the neck or brain. For instance, ultrasound can locate blockages in the carotid arteries. In other cases, a CT angiography or MR angiography can reveal images of blood flow in the neck and brain.
Because there are multiple ways to address this issue, the treatment you receive will depend on the location and the extent of the blockage. Several surgical approaches can address blockages to prevent stroke, although there are also medications and lifestyle changes that may help.
You may be surprised to discover that most strokes are preventable. This is because many of the risk factors for stroke can be reversed through lifestyle changes. In general, a healthy lifestyle that includes a whole foods and high fiber diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use can go a long way towards reducing these risk factors and decreasing the likelihood that you’ll experience a stroke.