January 01, 2018

Carotid artery disease

Reducing stroke risk

Carotid artery disease

Your doctor has listened to the side of your neck with a stethoscope in the past. You never knew why, but now you do. Your doctor reports hearing a whooshing noise — something called a bruit (bru-ee) — that raises concern that the main (carotid) artery supplying blood to your brain may be clogging up. This can increase your risk of a stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.

Clogging of one or both carotid arteries (carotid artery stenosis) is the cause of about 8 to 15 percent of the most common type of stroke, called an ischemic stroke.

Stroke: A clear sign

Carotid artery stenosis develops slowly over time. It results from damage to the inner linings of arteries and collections of fatty deposits (plaque) that gradually stiffen, clog and narrow the carotid artery. Carotid artery stenosis causes blood flow to be more turbulent, increasing the risk of blood clots, which can block blood flow to part of the brain.

Stenosis is generally a silent process, and the first symptom experienced may be a stroke, or temporary stroke-like symptoms that quickly go away, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

The signs and symptoms of a stroke or TIA come on suddenly. Seek immediate emergency care for yourself or someone else if you notice:

  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the face or body
  • Difficulty speaking or trouble understanding others
  • ...