Carotid stenosis

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is carotid stenosis?

Carotid artery stenosis, which is also called as carotid artery disease, is 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.

How common is carotid stenosis?

Older people are more likely to be affected by carotid stenosis. Before age 75, men are more at risk than women. More than 500,000 new strokes occur in the United States each year, and carotid stenosis is estimated to cause 20 to 30% of them. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of carotid stenosis?

It is believed that carotid stenosis might have no symptoms in the beginning stage until a stroke occurs. Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include:

  • Transient blindness in your eye
  • Permanent blindness
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness in a part of your face, arm, or leg
  • Numbness and tingling in your face, arm, or leg
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to speak
  • Inability to speak coherently
  • Inability to understand speech
  • Loss of consciousness

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes carotid stenosis?

Carotid artery disease is engendered by a buildup of plaques in arteries that deliver blood to your brain and is believed as the major reason to cause this contion. Plaques are clumps of cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue and other cellular debris that gather at microscopic injury sites within the artery. This process is called atherosclerosis.

Carotid arteries that are clogged with plaques are stiff and narrow. Clogged carotid arteries have trouble delivering oxygen and nutrients to vital brain structures that are responsible for your day-to-day functioning.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for carotid stenosis?

There are many risk factors for carotid stenosis, such as:

High blood pressure

Excess pressure on artery walls can weaken them and make them more vulnerable to damage.

Excess of using tobacco

Nicotine can irritate the inner lining of your arteries. Smoking also increases your heart rate and blood pressure.


Diabetes lowers your ability to process fats efficiently, placing you at greater risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

High blood-fat levels

High levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, a blood fat, encourage the accumulation of plaques.

Family history

Your risk of carotid artery disease is higher if a relative has atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease.


Arteries become less flexible and more prone to injury with age.


Excess weight increases your chances of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Sleep apnea

Spells of stopping breathing at night may increase your risk of stroke.

Lack of exercise

It contributes to conditions that damage your arteries, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is carotid stenosis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Some common tests will be ordered include:

Carotid Ultrasound

This noninvasive test uses an ultrasound to detect the presence of plaque. A Doppler ultrasound can also tell doctors if the blockage is severe.

Computed Tomography Angiogram (CTA)

This test uses a computed tomography (CT) scan to detect carotid stenosis. A dye is injected into a vein in your arm, and the CT scan is used to take pictures of your carotids. The dye makes the area of stenosis visible and allows doctors to tell how severe the stenosis is.

Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)

This test is much like the CTA, but it uses MRI instead of a CT scan.

How is carotid stenosis treated?

The main goal in treating carotid artery disease is to prevent stroke. Specific treatment options will depend on the extent of blockage in your carotid arteries.

If blockage is mild to moderate, your doctor may recommend:

  • Lifestyle changes to slow the progression of atherosclerosis. Recommendations may include quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthy foods, reducing salt and exercising regularly.
  • Medication to control blood pressure or lower cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend taking a daily aspirin or other blood-thinning medication to prevent blood clots.

If blockage is severe, or if you’ve already had a TIA or stroke, your doctor may recommend removing the blockage from the artery. The options include:

Carotid endarterectomy

It is the most common treatment for severe carotid artery disease. After making an incision along the front of your neck, the surgeon opens the affected carotid artery and removes the plaques. The artery is repaired with either stitches or a graft.

Carotid angioplasty and stenting

If the blockage is too difficult to reach with carotid endarterectomy or you have other health conditions that make surgery too risky. You are given local anesthesia and a tiny balloon is threaded by catheter to the area of the clog. The balloon is inflated to widen the artery, and a small wire mesh coil (stent) is inserted to keep the artery from narrowing again.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage carotid stenosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with carotid stenosis:

Don’t smoke

Within a few years of quitting, a former smoker’s risk of stroke is similar to a nonsmoker’s.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight contributes to other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.

Limit cholesterol and fat

Cutting back on saturated fat, in particular, may reduce buildup of plaques in your arteries.

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables

They contain nutrients such as potassium, folate and antioxidants, which may protect against a TIA or stroke.

Limit salt

Excess salt may increase blood pressure in people who are sensitive to sodium. Experts recommend that healthy adults eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.

Exercise regularly

Exercise can lower your blood pressure, increase your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — and improve the overall health of your blood vessels and heart. It also helps you lose weight, control diabetes and reduce stress.

Limit alcohol.

Control chronic conditions

Managing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure helps protect your arteries

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: August 8, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019