Your carotid arteries play an essential role in your body – they work to supply blood to your brain. If these arteries become blocked or begin to narrow, they lose the ability to produce sufficient amounts of blood, compromising brain health and function.
Carotid artery disease is the vascular disease that narrows the arteries and puts your health at risk. To help explain how it works, we’ve answered some of the leading questions about this disease.
What Is Carotid Artery Disease?
You have two carotid arteries, one on either side of your neck and head. Both supply nutrient-rich blood to the brain, allowing it to remain healthy and function properly.
Patients with the vascular disease carotid artery disease experience a narrowing of one or both arteries. This puts their brain at risk of blood loss and their bodies at risk of stroke.
Causes of Carotid Artery Disease
Arteries become narrow from atherosclerosis, a vascular disease that stems from fatty deposits building up on the walls of the arteries. Sometimes called plaque buildup, these deposits prevent a steady flow of blood to pass through the arteries. Atherosclerosis leads to deprivation of blood in certain areas of the body.
Atherosclerosis doesn’t pick and choose the arteries to target, either. Patients with carotid artery disease likely have buildup of fatty deposits in other crucial arteries as well.
What are the Risk Factors for Carotid Artery Disease?
Patients with narrowing in their carotid arteries likely have one or more of the following health risks:
- Age at 50 or above
- Coronary heart disease
- Family history of heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- History of heart attack
- History of smoking
Women are also more likely than men to develop carotid artery disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease?
Patients may experience symptoms like:
TIA, or Transient Ischemic Attack
Often referred to as a ministoke, a TIA is where there is brief restriction of blood to the brain. Ministroke patients usually experience mild and temporary symptoms of a stroke, but damage is not permanent. TIA is a warning sign, letting your body know something is wrong. If you experience a TIA, get emergency treatment as soon as possible.
Blood loss to the brain due to carotid artery disease can lead to a major stroke and can cause permanent brain damage. Strokes often leave patients with mental and physical impairments.
When blood flow is restricted in an artery, it makes a distinct sound. However, this sound is only detectable through a stethoscope.