What Is Carotid Stenosis?
stenosis, or carotid artery disease, is a narrowing or blockage of the carotid
arteries. Located in the side of your neck, your left and right carotids are
two large arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain. You can feel
your carotids pulsate when you place your index finger right below the angle of
stenosis is dangerous because it can decrease blood flow to your brain. If
blood flow to your brain is interrupted, you can have a stroke. About 800,000 Americans have strokes every year.
What Are the Symptoms of
stenosis might have no symptoms until a stroke occurs. Symptoms of a stroke
blindness in your eye
in a part of your face, arm, or leg
and tingling in your face, arm, or leg
to speak coherently
to understand speech
call 911 or go to an emergency room if you experience any of these symptoms,
even if the symptoms go away after a short while. It could be a warning sign or
a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which means you are at risk for a full-blown
What Causes Carotid
A buildup of
deposits of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances (collectively
referred to as plaque) along the lining of the carotid artery is the most
common cause of carotid stenosis. This buildup or hardening of the arteries is
deposits in the carotids increase in size, the opening of your carotid artery
becomes narrower, and your risk for stroke increases. Plaque makes the inside
surface of your carotids rough, and this roughness attracts platelets, the
blood cells that help your blood clot. Sometimes small pieces of clot or plaque
can break off, travel through your bloodstream, and cause a blockage in smaller
arteries in your brain. Plaque can also rupture and cause clots to form.
Who Is at Risk for Carotid
problems that cause plaque to form in the arteries of your heart and leg
arteries also cause plaque deposits in your carotid arteries. Some of the
factors that increase the risk of carotid stenosis are:
damages the lining of blood vessels. This increases the risk of cholesterol
being deposited inside your arteries.
High Cholesterol Levels
cholesterol levels increase the chances of plaque formation.
High Blood Pressure
pressure can result in the formation of plaque in your carotids. Your systolic
blood pressure, which is the uppermost number in your blood pressure reading,
should be less than 140. If you have diabetes, your systolic blood pressure
should be less than 130.
damages arteries. People with diabetes are two to four times as likely to have a stroke as people
without diabetes. People with diabetes are also more likely to have high blood
pressure and high cholesterol.
How Is Carotid Stenosis
carotid stenosis, your doctor may begin by looking at your medical history and
doing a physical examination. Your doctor may use a stethoscope to listen to
the blood flow in your neck and check for a swooshing sound called a bruit. The
following tests can also help your doctor confirm a diagnosis of carotid
noninvasive test uses an ultrasound to detect the presence of plaque. A Doppler
ultrasound can also tell doctors if the blockage is severe.
Computed Tomography Angiogram (CTA)
uses a computed tomography (CT) scan to detect carotid stenosis. A dye is
injected into a vein in your arm, and the CT scan is used to take pictures of your
carotids. The dye makes the area of stenosis visible and allows doctors to tell
how severe the stenosis is.
Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)
This test is
much like the CTA, but it uses MRI instead of a CT scan.
How Is Carotid Stenosis
stenosis without severe symptoms can be treated with aspirin. Antiplatelet
medications, such as aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix), decrease the ability of
platelets to form blood clots. Sometimes blood thinners, such as coumadin, are
used to reduce stroke risk.
can be treated surgically by removing the plaque. A vascular surgeon who
specializes in operating on blood vessels will perform this kind of surgery.
The procedure is called carotid endarterectomy.
for the underlying cause for carotid stenosis is essential. People with carotid
stenosis who smoke should quit immediately. High blood pressure, diabetes, and
high cholesterol have to be treated with diet, exercise, and medication.
Controlling these conditions and making lifestyle changes are also the best
ways to lower your risk of developing carotid stenosis.