Carotid Stenosis, TIA or Stroke  (CAD)

Carotid artery disease (CAD) is a severe medical condition that describes blockages or narrowing within the main arteries of the neck, known as the “carotid arteries”.  These arteries provide blood flow to your brain.  As plaque builds up in these arteries, the blood flow to your brain can break off a piece of plaque, which can lodge in your brain – causing a stroke.

What causes carotid artery disease? Learn More Close

Over time, the arteries within the body can become blocked by fatty deposits. This is especially severe within the carotid arteries.  While this occurs in some degree to everyone, having some of the risk factors below can speed up the process and cause the disease to become apparent.

Am I at risk for carotid artery disease? Learn More Close

Some of the most common risk factors associated with artery disease (leading to stroke) are the following:

  • Age
  • Family history of CAD or stroke
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease? Learn More Close

The gradual build-up of plaque is a silent process. When carotid artery disease becomes symptomatic, it can produce a transient ischemic attack (TIA or "mini-storke") or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA, or full stroke).

These symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Facial drooping
  • One-sided vision loss
  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

How can I prevent carotid artery disease? Learn More Close

Avoiding the risk factors, when possible, is the best way to prevent CAD and possibly stroke from occurring. Working with your doctor is the best way to make sure you are doing everything possible to prevent CAD or reduce the impact on your health.

How is carotid artery disease diagnosed? Learn More Close

Carotid artery disease is often picked up incidentally during a physical exam when a stethoscope is used to listen over the neck area, and a "whooshing" sound is heard. The "whoosing" sound is an indicator of vessel narrowing. To confirm the diagnosis, an ultrasound of the carotid arteries is performed, which can identify the degree of narrowing and the characteristics of the blood flow.  Other imaging techniques used include computed tomography angiography (CTA), magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), or carotid angiography.

How is carotid artery disease treated? Learn More Close

Besides avoiding the risk factors mentioned above by quitting smoking, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and being physically active, medicines can be used to treat blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevent blood clots. Surgery or procedure options include:  carotid endarterectomy and carotid angioplasty and stenting.