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What is Carotid Artery Disease?

The carotid arteries in your neck deliver oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your brain, head and face. Carotid artery disease occurs when narrowing (stenosis) limits blood flow. These conditions can cause a potentially life-changing stroke.

Carotid stenosis care in the Puget Sound: Why choose us?

Services from our highly skilled specialists lower your stroke risk. We often treat small aneurysms and minor stenosis with medical therapies. And by monitoring the condition regularly, we can detect changes that may require additional treatments. If surgery is necessary, we discuss the risks and benefits so you can choose the best option. 

Carotid artery disease care is available in locations throughout Puget Sound. We often perform evaluations and provide personalized recommendations in one visit. Get started by making an appointment with a vascular disease specialist.

What does carotid artery disease feel like?

You can have carotid artery disease and experience no symptoms. Doctors often detect carotid stenosis and aneurysms during evaluations for other medical conditions. 

If there’s a blockage and you have a stroke, you may experience: 

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Facial drooping
  • Lack of coordination
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty expressing yourself
  • Vision issues

Know the signs of a stroke: BE FAST

How can you tell if you or a loved one is having a stroke? Symptoms may include:

  • Balance, coordination loss or dizziness
  • Eye, vision changes or vision loss
  • Facial drooping
  • Arm that drifts or won’t lift
  • Slurring or difficulty speaking
  • Time to call 911 (note what time the symptoms started so you can tell the paramedic)

If you or someone else is experiencing any of these signs, don’t wait! Call 911 immediately.

What causes carotid artery disease?

The most common stenosis cause is a waxy substance (plaque) that builds up in the carotid arteries. As plaque deposits grow, less blood flows through the arteries.

Carotid artery disease risk factors

Certain factors raise your risk for carotid artery stenosis and aneurysms, including: 

  • Age: In many people, arteries naturally harden as they get older.
  • Biologic sex: People assigned male at birth are more likely to experience carotid artery disease.
  • Family history: If a blood relative has carotid artery disease, you face a higher risk.
  • Lifestyle: Smoking and inactivity raise your risk.
  • Other medical conditions: Carotid artery disease is more likely in people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease (PAD) or diabetes.

Carotid artery disease diagnosis

Doctors often detect signs of carotid artery disease during imaging studies for other medical issues. We confirm the diagnosis with vascular testing in our accredited lab. Tests may include CT scans or duplex ultrasound to evaluate the fine details of your carotid arteries.

If you have risk factors, we may recommend assessments to learn more. Detecting carotid artery disease in its earlier stages enables you to receive treatments to slow its progression and avoid complications. Explore vascular disease screenings.

Treatments for carotid artery stenosis

We often treat carotid artery disease with medical therapies that slow plaque progression. Severe cases and blockages may require a procedure. Read more about our vascular disease treatments.

  • Medical therapies may include:

    • Medications: We may recommend drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Antiplatelet therapy may prevent blood clots.
    • Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking can help your arteries heal. You should also eat a lower-fat diet and avoid processed foods.
  • Your surgeon explains the options that are right for you, and together you determine how best to proceed. Your treatment may include: 

    • Transfemoral angioplasty and stenting: First, we make a small incision in the femoral artery and guide the catheter to the affected carotid artery. Then we inflate a small balloon in narrowed carotid arteries to widen them. A hollow mesh device (stent) keeps them open.
    • Transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR): After making a small incision, we temporarily reverse blood flow away from the brain. Doing so decreases the risk of plaques traveling to the brain and causing a stroke during the procedure. Next, we use a balloon to widen narrowed arteries and then place a stent. Read more about TCAR.
    • Carotid endarterectomy: During this open surgical procedure, we make an incision in your neck to access the affected carotid artery and remove plaque. Get more information about endarterectomy.

Contact us

Our specialists care for patients across the Puget Sound area and beyond.