Health Care

Carotid Artery Disease: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Diagnosis

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Your arteries keep blood flowing to and from your brain and keep you living your life to the fullest. At AdventHealth, we’re committed to helping you feel whole throughout your life, and your vascular health is no different.

Learn more about carotid artery disease, symptoms, risk factors and diagnosis to ensure you and your loved ones stay healthy.

What is Carotid Artery Disease?

The carotid arteries are two large blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the large, front part of the brain. Over time, the buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol narrow the carotid arteries, decreasing blood flow to the brain and increasing the risk of a stroke.

Strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S. and can occur if:

  • A blood clot forms and obstructs a blood vessel
  • A piece of plaque breaks off and travels to smaller arteries in the brain
  • An artery becomes extremely narrowed
  • There’s a rupture in an artery

Risk Factors of Carotid Artery Disease

A healthy heart and arteries are the number one way to protect yourself from carotid artery disease. Certain lifestyle and genetic factors can increase your chance of developing carotid artery disease, such as:

  • Abnormal lipids or high cholesterol
  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of atherosclerosis, either carotid artery disease or coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

You can reduce your risk of developing the disease by making a few lifestyle changes.

Symptoms of Carotid Artery Disease?

Carotid artery disease is a silent disease. Plaque builds up in the carotid arteries over time with no warning signs until you have a stroke. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke can save your life or a loved one. The signs of a stroke may include:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems with memory
  • Sudden difficulty walking, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Weakness, tingling or numbness on one side of the face or body

If you believe you or a loved one are having a stroke, call 911 and get medical attention immediately.

How to Diagnose Carotid Artery Disease

Since there are no physical symptoms of carotid artery disease, the best way to prevent a stroke due to plaque buildup in your carotid arteries is to see your primary care physician regularly for physical exams. While at a checkup visit, your doctor may listen to the arteries in your neck with a stethoscope. If they hear an abnormal sound, called a bruit, it may reflect turbulent blood flow, which could indicate carotid artery disease.

If your primary care physician believes you have a bruit, they may screen for stenosis (narrowing of the arteries) and provide medication or recommend lifestyle changes to help prevent the disease from progressing.

Vascular Experts Who Put You First

At AdventHealth, we treat more people with vascular diseases than any other hospital in the United States. We’re honored to provide the most advanced diagnostics, treatments and surgical techniques for various cardiovascular diseases. Our vascular surgeons are trained in minimally invasive procedures and create an individualized care plan unique to you and your needs. To learn more about the compassionate care we provide to our cardiovascular patients or schedule an appointment, click here.

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