Carotid artery disease occurs when the main blood vessels to the brain develop a buildup of plaque caused by atherosclerosis. Some plaque in the carotid arteries is normal with age. Too much plaque build up can cause a stroke.  

Risk Factors

You are at a higher risk for stroke due to carotid artery disease if you experience these conditions:

  • High blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • Are a smoker
  • Had a stroke or have a family history of stroke


The main warning signs for a stroke include:

  • Sudden weakness
  • Slurring of speech
  • Paralysis of an arm or leg
  • Dizziness and blurry eyesight

Call 911 immediately if you have these symptoms.


Most cases of carotid artery disease do not require treatment. But when plaque causes a blockage of 60 to 70% or more, or causes mini-strokes, treatment may be required.

A carotid endarterectomy (CEA) clears up a larger percentage of the plaque. After the CEA, more than 90% of patients are free from stroke and have normal carotid arteries for the rest of their lives.

For more information or to make an appointment with the Vascular Center at UM BWMC, call 410-553-8300.