What is Carotid Artery Disease?
Carotid artery disease is a condition in which the major arteries of the neck (carotid arteries) become narrowed or blocked. These arteries provide the main blood supply to the brain. When these arteries become narrowed, the condition is called carotid stenosis.
Carotid Artery Disease: Risk Factors
Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the inner lining of the arteries. Plaque may slowly block or narrow the carotid artery, causing a clot to suddenly form. In turn, the clot can lead to a stroke. Risk factors for carotid artery disease include:
- Age (as you age, your risk increases)
- Alcohol abuse
- Cocaine use
- Family history of stroke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking (people who smoke one pack a day double their risk for stroke)
While someone with carotid artery disease does not always experience warning signs, symptoms may reveal that of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), which includes:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of memory
- Loss of sensation
- Problems with speech and language
- Vision loss
- Weakness in one part of your body
Testing for Carotid Artery Disease
First, your doctor will perform a physical exam. Using a stethoscope, he or she will listen for an abnormal sound (called a bruit) in your neck.
A physical exam may also reveal clots in the blood vessels of the eye. If you have ever had a stroke or TIA, a neurological exam will likely reveal other problems.
Tests may include:
- Blood cholesterol and triglycerides
- Blood sugar (glucose) test
- Ultrasound of the carotid arteries (carotid duplex Doppler study) to see how well blood is flowing through the carotid artery
To examine the blood vessels in the neck and brain, the following tests may be done:
- Carotid or cerebral angiography
- Computerized tomographic angiography (CTA)
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
How is Carotid Artery Disease Treated at TriHealth?
The first, non-surgical approaches for treating carotid artery disease include:
- Blood-thinning medicines, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin), which are prescribed to lower your risk of stroke.
- Medicine and diet to lower your cholesterol
- Medicines and diet to control your blood pressure
Your doctor will also recommend checking your carotid artery with annual tests.
Surgical intervention we offer at TriHealth for treating carotid artery disease includes:
We use stenting, which involves the placement of a tiny tube into your carotid artery, to treat abdominal aortic aneurysm, carotid artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.
If you have a vascular condition causing artery blockages in the legs, your doctor may recommend drug releasing stents as a treatment option.