Carotid artery stenosis is a condition that happens when the carotid artery becomes blocked. The artery in the neck is the vessel that delivers blood to your brain. This blockage is caused by a buildup of plaque, which is a substance of fat and cholesterol. The fatty deposits in the arteries are called atherosclerosis. When the plaque blocks the normal flow of blood through your carotid artery, you’re at increased risk of stroke.
The body’s vascular system is an intricate network of vessels that carry blood through the body. It is responsible for providing blood to all the body’s tissues so they can function optimally. It also serves to rid the body of waste products. At the center of the cardiovascular system is the heart. It is a powerhouse organ that pumps blood to the lungs to get oxygen. It then sends the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body through the larger vessels called the arteries. Finally, the veins, smaller blood vessels, carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart to repeat the circulatory process.
The body has two carotid arteries on either side of your neck. The primary function of these large arteries is to deliver blood to your brain. When these arteries are in healthy condition, they appear to be a smooth pathway. When functioning correctly, they allow for the free, unobstructed flow of blood to your head, face, and brain. However, when plaque deposits cause a narrowing of the arteries, it inhibits proper blood flow. This can lead to the development of carotid artery stenosis. The condition can affect the carotid in either of the two arteries in your neck. Carotid artery stenosis can worsen over time without medical treatment, leading to stroke or even death.
Certain risk factors place a person at higher risk for carotid artery stenosis. Some are related to underlying health conditions, and some are due to lifestyle choices. They include:
The good news is that healthy lifestyle changes can be an excellent first line of defense in treating carotid artery disease. In addition, they help manage weight which can help control weight-related conditions like blood pressure and cholesterol.
There are several tests that your doctor may use to check the arteries in the neck and confirm a diagnosis of carotid artery stenosis. These tests can include:
Treatment always starts with lifestyle modifications like diet, exercise, and stopping smoking. Sometimes, a daily dose of baby aspirin to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol may also be prescribed. In severe cases involving symptoms of TIA or stroke, your provider may place a stent or perform a carotid endarterectomy. This surgical procedure removes the plaque from the carotid artery through an incision.
The experts at South Valley Vascular specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases and conditions of the blood vessels. We understand your concerns and want to help! For more information on screening for ischemic strokes or to schedule a consultation, call us at (559) 625-4118.