Carotid Artery Disease

What is Carotid Artery Disease?

Carotid artery disease is when fatty deposits (plaque) in the carotid arteries clog or block the blood vessels that deliver blood, restricting blood flow to the brain. These arteries are in the front of the neck on either side of the windpipe (trachea). Carotid artery disease can be caused by several factors including smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. There is no cure, but there are treatments to manage the symptoms including restricting sodium in the diet and quitting smoking. Surgery may be considered if other management strategies do not work or if there is significant narrowing of the arteries (stenosis).

Signs and Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, often only on one side of the body
  • Pain in the jaw or neck when chewing
  • Intermittent bursts of pain in between the shoulder blades
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing and breathing

Treatment and Management of Carotid Artery Disease

Managing and treating carotid artery disease can range from making small lifestyle changes to surgical options. Treatments include:

  • Managing cholesterol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • A variety of medications depending on the severity, including blood thinners to keep clots from forming in the arteries and high blood pressure medication to lower blood pressure
  • Carotid endarterectomy (surgical removal of the blockage) if other treatments are not effective and stenosis is present
  • Carotid artery stenting (CAS) where a specially designed catheter is threaded into the narrowed artery and then a small balloon tip is inflated for a few seconds to open the artery. A stent is then placed in the artery and expanded to hold it in place.

Who Qualifies for Treatment?

The goal of treatment is to prevent stroke. You may qualify for treatment if you:

  • Have stroke like symptoms
  • Have a stroke from carotid artery disease and want to prevent future strokes
  • Have carotid artery stenosis (narrowing) greater than 70%

The board certified cardiologists at Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates are experts in evaluating, diagnosing and treating cardiovascular diseases like carotid artery disease. If you are showing signs of symptoms of carotid artery disease or would like to know more, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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