Carotid Artery Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Tests, and Treatment
- Carotid artery disease introduction
- How does carotid artery disease happen?
- What are the risk factors for carotid artery disease?
- What are the symptoms of carotid artery disease?
- What is a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?
- How is carotid artery disease diagnosed
- What's the treatment for carotid artery disease?
- What are the recommended lifestyle changes for carotid artery disease?
- Which drugs can reduce the risk of stroke?
- What medical procedures treat carotid artery disease
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
Carotid Artery Disease Introduction
Carotid artery disease is also called carotid artery stenosis. The term refers to the narrowing of the carotid arteries. This narrowing is usually caused by the buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol deposits, called plaque. Carotid artery occlusion refers to complete blockage of the artery. When the carotid arteries are obstructed, you are at an increased risk for a stroke, the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
How Does Carotid Artery Disease Happen?
Like the arteries that supply blood to the heart -- the coronary arteries -- the carotid arteries can also develop atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries” on the inside of the vessels.
Over time, the buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol narrows the carotid arteries. This decreases blood flow to the brain and increases the risk of a stroke.
A stroke -- sometimes called a “brain attack” -- is similar to a heart attack. It occurs when blood flow is cut off from part of the brain. If the lack of blood flow lasts for more than 3 to 6 hours, the damage is usually permanent. A stroke can occur if:
- the artery becomes extremely narrowed
- there's a rupture in an artery to the brain that has atherosclerosis
- a piece of plaque breaks off and travels to the smaller arteries of the brain
- a blood clot forms and obstructs a blood vessel
Strokes can occur as a result of other conditions besides carotid artery disease. For example, sudden bleeding in the brain, called intracerebral hemorrhage, can cause a stroke. Other possible causes include:
- sudden bleeding in the spinal fluid space -- subarachnoid hemorrhage
- atrial fibrillation
- blockage of tiny arteries inside the brain
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