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Living With Carotid Artery Disease

If you have carotid artery disease, you can take steps to manage the condition, reduce risk factors, and prevent complications. These steps include making lifestyle changes, following your treatment plan, and getting ongoing care.

Having carotid artery disease raises your risk of having a stroke. Know the warning signs of a stroke—such as weakness and trouble speaking—and what to do if they occur. Call 9–1–1 as soon as symptoms start (do not drive yourself to the hospital).

For more detailed information about the warning signs of a stroke, go to the section on warning signs below.

Lifestyle Changes

For more information about lifestyle changes, go to “How Is Carotid Artery Disease Treated?”

Treatment Plan

Following your treatment plan may help prevent your carotid artery disease from getting worse. It also can lower your risk for stroke and other health problems.

You may need to take medicines to control certain risk factors and to prevent blood clots that could cause a stroke. Taking prescribed medicines and following a healthy lifestyle can help control carotid artery disease. However, they don't cure the disease. You'll likely have to stick with your treatment plan for life.

Ongoing Care

If you have carotid artery disease, having ongoing medical care is important.

Most people who have the disease will need to have their blood pressure checked regularly and their blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels tested one or more times a year. If you have diabetes, you'll need routine blood sugar tests and other tests.

Testing shows whether these conditions are under control, or whether your doctor needs to adjust your treatment for better results.

If you've had a stroke or procedures to restore blood flow in your carotid arteries, you'll likely need a yearly carotid Doppler ultrasound test. This test shows how well blood flows through your carotid arteries.

Repeating this test over time will show whether the narrowing in your carotid arteries is getting worse. Results also can show how well procedures to treat your arteries have worked.

Follow up with your doctor regularly. The sooner your doctor spots problems, the sooner he or she can prescribe treatment.

Stroke Warning Signs

The signs and symptoms of stroke may include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the face or limbs, often on only one side of the body
  • The inability to move one or more of your limbs
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • A sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Call 9–1–1 for help as soon as symptoms start. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. It's very important to get checked and treated as soon as possible.

If you're a candidate for clot-busting therapy, you have the best chance for full recovery if treatment to open a blocked artery is given within 4 hours of symptom onset. The sooner treatment occurs, the better your chances of recovery.

Make those close to you aware of stroke symptoms and the need for urgent action. Learning the signs and symptoms of a stroke will allow you to help yourself or someone close to you lower the risk of damage or death due to a stroke.

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Last Updated: November 1, 2010