Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque builds up within the arteries that supply blood to the brain. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other material that deposits to varying degrees in the arteries to minimally, partially or completely block the arteries that the brain depends on to keep functioning normally. When significant blockage occurs in this artery, there is increased risk of stroke due to the burden of plaque present.
Carotid artery disease is often silent but can also present with signs of stroke including:
Weakness/numbness – often on one side of the face/body
Change/loss of vision
Change in speech
Dizziness and/or imbalance
Testing for carotid artery disease includes:
Carotid artery ultrasound
CT and/or MR angiography
Treatment for carotid artery disease is multi-faceted including risk factor modification such as controlling blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol with a diet/exercise and sometimes medicine. In cases of significant blockage, stents and/or endarterectomy (surgical clean out of the artery) may be indicated in conjunction with risk factor management described above.