The carotid arteries provide the main blood supply to the brain. They are located on each side of your neck. You can feel their pulse under your jawline.
Carotid artery stenosis occurs when the carotid arteries become narrowed or blocked. This can lead to stroke.
Whether or not your doctor recommended surgery to unblock narrowed arteries, medicines and lifestyle changes can:
Making certain changes to your diet and exercise habits can help treat carotid artery disease. These healthy changes can also help you maintain a healthy weight and manage high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Be more active.
Stop smoking, if you smoke. Quitting reduces your risk of stroke. Talk with your doctor about quit-smoking programs.
If lifestyle changes do not lower your cholesterol and blood pressure enough, medicines may be prescribed.
These medicines can have side effects. If you notice side effects, be sure to tell your doctor. Your doctor may change the dose or type of medicine you take to help reduce side effects. Never stop taking medicines or take less medicine without talking to your doctor first.
Your doctor will want to monitor you and see how well your treatment is working. At these visits, your doctor may:
You may also have imaging tests done to see if the blockages in your carotid arteries are becoming worse.
Having carotid artery disease puts you at risk for stroke. If you think you have symptoms of stroke, go to the emergency room or call your local emergency number (such as 9-1-1) immediately. Symptoms of a stroke include:
Get help as soon as symptoms occur. The sooner you receive treatment, the better your chance for recovery. With a stroke, every second of delay can result in more brain injury.
Carotid artery disease - self-care
Brott TG, Halperin JL, Abbara S, et al. American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines, et al. 2011 ASA/ACCF/AHA/AANN/AANS/ACR/ASNR/CNS/SAIP/SCAI/SIR/SNIS/SVM/SVS guideline on the management of patients with extracranial carotid and vertebral artery disease: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines, and the American Stroke Association, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American College of Radiology, American Society of Neuroradiology, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Society of Atherosclerosis Imaging and Prevention, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, Society of Interventional Radiology, Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery, Society for Vascular Medicine, and Society for Vascular Surgery. Vasc Med. 2011;16:35-77.
Brott TG, Hobson RW 2nd, Howard G, Roubin GS, Clark WM, Brooks W, et al. Stenting verses endarterectomy for treatment of carotid-artery stenosis. N Engl J Med. 2010;363:11-23.
Updated by: Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, FACC Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at New York Medical College, and in private practice specializing in cardiovascular disease in Greenwich, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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