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Carotid Artery Disease

What is carotid artery disease?

There is a carotid artery on each side of the neck. These arteries transmit blood from the heart to the brain. When cholesterol builds up inside the artery, it can cause a narrowing or blockage, also called atherosclerosis or plaque.

In most people, this build up of cholesterol does not cause any problems. The best management is to treat any underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Stopping smoking is also essential.

In some people, small fragments of cholesterol can break off and pass to the brain or sometimes the eye on that side. When this occurs, a stroke, mini-stroke or visual disturbance may result. A mini-stroke is also called a TIA, which means transient ischaemic attack.

3d,Rendered,Illustration,Of,The,Carotid,Artery
Picture Shows Carotid Artery on Each Side of the Neck.

Who is at risk of getting carotid artery disease?

People at risk for carotid artery disease are also at risk for artery disease in other parts of the body, for example, ischaemic heart disease, kidney disease, and leg artery disease. Other important risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
 
Management of these risks usually involves healthy eating, exercise, weight control, as well as blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes control. Low-dose Aspirin and a statin to lower cholesterol are common treatments too.
 
Illustration,Shows, Part,of,the,Carotid,Artery,Stroke Risk
Carotid Atherosclerosis Causing Narrowing.
Illustration,Of,Clogged,Cerebral,Arteries,Carotid Artery,Stroke

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when an area of the brain dies. This will often cause speech, movement, brain function, and eye deficits. Carotid artery disease causes about 30% of strokes. Other causes of strokes are bleeding and blood clots, which may come from the heart.

What can be done about it?

An operation called carotid endarterectomy can clean out the segment of disease, to prevent further carotid problems developing. Healthy people with severe narrowing may be benefit from surgery to help reduce the risk of future stroke.

Patients who’ve had a recent stroke with significant narrowing, are the main candidates for carotid endarterectomy, to reduce the risk of recurrent stroke.