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Carotid Artery Disease

The carotid arteries are located in the neck on each side of the windpipe. They supply the brain with oxygenated blood. These arteries can become narrowed or clogged by fatty or cholesterol deposits called plaque. This can reduce or cut off the blood supply to the brain. It also can result in small pieces (emboli) breaking off and blocking other arteries to the brain or eye. This disease causes up to a third of all strokes in the United States.

Carotid artery disease symptoms

Most people with carotid artery disease have no symptoms. If you are at risk, your doctor should listen to these arteries in your neck regularly, using a stethoscope. If the doctor hears a swishing sound in the artery, called a bruit, you may need further tests.

One of the signs of a stroke is a transient ischemic attack or TIA. These symptoms can be very short or as long as 24 hours. You should seek emergency help for the following symptoms:

  • Vision loss in one eye
  • Speech problems such as slurring, difficulty talking or understanding others
  • Sudden weakness or numbness of one side of the face, an arm or leg

Carotid artery disease risks

You are at greater risk for this disease if you have atherosclerosis – when the blood vessels become narrowed or clogged by fatty or cholesterol deposits called plaque. You also are at greater risk if you have peripheral artery disease or PAD. Other risk factors:

  • Age and gender: Men are at higher risk before age 75, and women are at higher risk after 75
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of this problem
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Tobacco use: Smoking increases your risk dramatically
  • Race or ethnicity: All are at risk, though African American and Hispanic people are at greater risk

Carotid artery disease treatment

Doctors at The University of Kansas Hospital use the most current techniques to guide treatment of vascular disease. Review the treatment options.