Carotid Artery Stenosis

Carotid artery stenosis occurs when the carotid arteries narrow. The carotid arteries are major arteries found on each side of the neck. They supply blood from the heart to the brain. This condition is a major risk factor for ischemic stroke . Ischemic stroke is when blood flow to the brain is blocked due to blood clots. Carotid artery stenosis is a potentially serious condition that requires care from your doctor.

  • Causes


    Carotid artery stenosis is caused by the build-up of plaque along the lining of the arteries. This build-up is known as
    atherosclerosis
    . Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, and other substances.

  • Definition

    Carotid artery stenosis occurs when the carotid arteries narrow. The carotid arteries are major arteries found on each side of the neck. They supply blood from the heart to the brain.


    This condition is a major risk factor for ischemic
    stroke
    . Ischemic stroke is when blood flow to the brain is blocked due to blood clots. Carotid artery stenosis is a potentially serious condition that requires care from your doctor.

    Blood Supply to the Brain
    IMAGE
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will listen for irregular blood flow in the carotid arteries with a stethoscope.


    Tests may include:

    • Carotid ultrasonography—uses a device placed on the side of the neck to detect the narrow parts of the arteries
    • Computer tomography angiography (CTA)—uses computer enhanced x-ray images and a special liquid injected into the blood to examine blood flow through the arteries
    • Magnetic resonance angiography
      (MRA)—uses magnetic fields and a special liquid injected into the blood to make images of the arteries

  • Prevention


    To help reduce your chance of getting carotid artery stenosis, you will need to decrease the risk factors that you can control. For example, you can reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. Here are some steps to decrease these risk factors:

    • Exercise regularly.

    • Eat more
      fruits and vegetables
      . Limit dietary
      salt
      and
      fat
      .
    • Stop smoking.

    • If you drink alcohol, do so only in
      moderation
      . This means having no more than two drinks per day if you are a man, and no more than one drink per day if you are woman.

    • Maintain a
      healthy weight
      .
    • Keep your blood pressure in a safe range. Follow your doctor's recommendations if you have high blood pressure.
    • Keep other conditions under control. This includes high cholesterol and diabetes.

  • Risk Factors


    Risk factors include:

    • Family history of atherosclerosis
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Peripheral artery disease
      (PAD)—disease of the arteries (usually in the legs) caused by fatty build-up
    • Age—men aged 75 or younger, women aged 75 years or older
    • Smoking
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • High cholesterol
    • Obesity

  • Symptoms


    There are usually no symptoms. Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of a stroke or a
    transient ischemic attack
    (TIA or mini-stroke). This is a warning sign that you may have carotid artery stenosis. Symptoms may include:

    • Blindness, blurry or dim vision
    • Weakness, numbness, or tingling of the face, arm, leg, or one side of the body
    • Difficulty speaking or understanding words
    • Dizziness, unsteadiness of gait, or falling
    • Trouble with balance or coordination
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Sudden confusion or loss of memory

  • Treatment


    The goal of treatment is to prevent carotid artery stenosis from causing inadequate blood flow to the brain or causing a stroke. Treatment will depend on:

    • The severity of your condition
    • Your symptoms

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include: