Aneurysm is formation of a pouch or a bulge at a weakened spot in the arterial wall. Aneurysm can develop in any artery, but mainly the aorta and carotid artery are affected. Carotid arteries supply blood to brain, face and neck region. There are two carotid arteries each on either side of neck which further extend to the brain.
Aneurysm can occur in any part of the carotid artery, either in the extracranial region in neck or intracranial region in brain. Just like a balloon, as the aneurysm grows the wall of artery becomes thin; a point comes when the aneurysm may burst.Rupture may cause symptoms of severe headache or stroke. It is often fatal condition if not treated on time.
Signs And Symptoms Of Carotid Artery Aneurysm
Carotid artery aneurysm if small is often asymptomatic. However, if symptoms are present they may be:
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA): TIA is one of the important symptoms of carotid aneurysm. It is a type of mini stroke where the symptoms are temporary and prevail for few seconds or minutes. Sudden muscle weakness in one side of body, one sided tingling and lack of sensation, slurred speech are few of its symptoms. In fact TIA is a warning sign that a stroke may occur in future if remedial measures are not taken.
- Headache: Severe and sudden headache is one of the symptoms of carotid artery rupture. It may be accompanied with vomiting, nausea, neck stiffness, and loss of consciousness.
- Vision problems: Patient may suffer from double vision, blurred vision, and pain in orbital area if the aneurysm is not ruptured. However, there may be temporary blindness if carotid aneurysm is ruptured.
- Carotid blockage: Carotid aneurysm can cause blood clots in the carotid artery. This may lead to blockage in the blood flow to the brain. Patient may suffer from stroke and sometime even death.
Causes Of Carotid Artery Aneurysm
There are many factors that may cause carotid aneurysm. It may be a congenital defect as in case of Marfan syndrome. Sometimes as you age, the elasticity of blood vessels may be affected. This may lead to thinning of the walls of blood vessels.
However, the most common cause of aneurysm is atherosclerosis. It is a condition in which the arterial wall becomes hard due to plaque formation. This may cause weakness in the walls of artery and the pressure of blood inside the artery will cause ballooning of the affected site of the arterial wall.
Inflammatory diseases and infectious diseases such as syphilis are also known causes of aneurysm. Other causes such as injury to brain, high blood pressure, smoking, alcohol, diabetes, drug abuse can trigger carotid aneurysm. Large aneurysm has greater risk of rupture.
Treatment Guidelines For Carotid Aneurysm
The main aim of treatment for carotid aneurysm is to address the symptoms and prevent complications from occurring. Treatment is always warranted to prevent TIA and stroke. Besides, carotid aneurysm can pressurize the adjacent tissues and structures, which may be nerves and veins. It may lead to difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness of voice or swelling on face. Rupture of aneurysm is the most dreaded complication.
If the aneurysm is small, physician may recommend wait and watch approach. Regular monitoring with MRI, angiography, will help to recognize the changes. Conservative treatment may be necessary such as blood thinning agents to reduce blockage of the artery. In some cases a surgical bypass or using stent grafts will be useful to prevent complications.
Besides the conventional and surgical treatment, patient has to alter his lifestyle. He has to quit smoking and alcohol intake. Eat diet that is low in fat and cholesterol. Avoid eating fast food. Exercising regularly and keeping blood pressure under control are effective way of reducing the risk of carotid aneurysm as well as prevent its complications.