The carotid arteries are arteries on either side of the neck. The carotid arteries supply blood containing nutrients and oxygen to the brain. The brain needs a constant supply of these nutrients and an interruption of their supply can cause a cerebro-vascular accident (stroke).
Carotid disease can cause stroke, mini-stroke or blindness in one eye. The usually mechanism for this the deposition of clot or debris from the diseased artery into the blood stream which then lodges in the brain and blocks the supply of vital nutrients.
The usually cause of disease in the carotid arteries is atherosclerosis. There are multiple contributors to the development of atherosclerosis and these include smoking, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, age, sex, genetic factors and others.
Symptoms of carotid disease include a stroke, a mini-stroke called a transient ishchaemic attack (TIA) or Amarausis Fugax. Strokes can have multiple presentations the commonest of which is a painless neurological dysfunction on one side of the body or the other. This may be weakness or numbness/sensory disturbance particularly the face or hand, loss of speech or loss of vision. A transient ischaemic attack is sometimes called a mini stroke because they resolve in minutes to hours. Amarausis Fugax is a temporary complete loss of vision on one eye. If you experience any of these symptoms you need to seek urgent medical attention.
If you have suffered from one of the above symptoms and have carotid disease, you are at substantially greater risk of suffering a more major stroke in the immediate future unless the disease is addressed.
If you have a significant narrowing in your carotid artery and have had no symptoms, you still have an increased risk of a stoke over the next years. Unfortunately, the first symptom may be a major stroke.
If you have a significant carotid narrowing, then carotid surgery can generally halve you risk of stroke. Carotid surgery involves dissecting out the vessel carefully, clamping the vessel, removing the disease and repairing the artery with a patch to make the vessel slightly wider.