Carotid stenosis refers to the blockage and narrowing of the carotid artery in the neck. The Carotid artery supplies blood to the brain. This blockage is caused by fatty build up called plaque and is also referred to as atherosclerosis. This fatty material accumulates in the inner lining of blood vessels and results in narrowing, stenosis and irregularity of the artery. This may result in the formation of blood clots which dislodge and flow up to the brain.
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted resulting in a loss of nutrients and oxygen. If the blood flow is not restored the brain cells die and there will be permanent brain damage. Stroke is a major cause of disability and death. Carotid stenosis is one of the many causes of stroke. Carotid artery disease is a condition in which the carotid arteries become narrowed or blocked. When the arteries become narrowed, the condition is called carotid stenosis.
- High blood pressure
- Inactive lifestyle.
Some people with carotid artery stenosis may experience dizziness, fainting and blurred vision which may be signs of the brain not receiving enough blood. In many cases, the first symptom is a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke because a small blood clot can form in the area of the vessel that is affected by atherosclerosis. When such a small clot becomes dislodged, it can travel into the brain and plug up a smaller artery on which a particular piece of the brain depends for its function and ultimately survival. Symptoms of a TIA and stroke are similar: paralysis or numbness on one side of the body, blurred vision, headache, trouble speaking and difficulty responding to others. A TIA is usually brief and leaves no lasting damage; it is due to a very small, temporary occlusion of a small artery but often a warning sign. A stroke is often associated with permanent injury of a part of the brain due to loss of its blood supply and can result in severe disability or death.
Severe cases of stenosis often require carotid endarterectomy, in which a surgeon makes an incision to remove plaque and any diseased portion of the artery while the patient is under general anesthesia.