Carotid Artery Disease

What is carotid artery disease?

The arteries are responsible for transporting blood rich in oxygen from the heart to other parts of the body. The carotid arteries are the two main arteries thar transport blood from the heart, passing through the neck, to the brain.

Healthy carotid arteries are smooth and do not present any obstructions, which permit blood to flow freely to the brain, and to proportion oxygen, glucose and other nutrients that the brain cells need. With age, the carotid arteries generally accumulate plaque, a bloody substance composed primarily of oil and cholesterol. Plaque narrows the passage in the arteries and hardens them.

Carotid artery disease occurs when the carotid arteries become too narrow or obstructed, which limits the blood flow to the brain. Cerebral infarctions are produced when the obstruction of blood flow to the brain caused by the plaque although, more frequently, when small amounts of plaque come loose and flow to the brain (cerebral embolisms). So if carotid artery disease is not treated, it produces a cerebral infarction, since the lack of oxygen and other essential nutrients damages the brain. According to its gravity, a cerebral infarction may be fatal. In fact, cerebral infarctions are the third leading cause of death in the western world, and the principal cause of permanent invalids in older adults.