The brain receives its blood supply from four major arteries, two carotid arteries at the front of the neck, and two vertebral arteries at the back of the neck.
As people age, plaque can deposit in the arteries to the brain. There are a number of risk factors for the formation of this plaque:
Ulcers can form on the surface of the plaque, which can release the contents of the plaque into the circulation. The debris from the plaque travels to the brain and blocks the small arteries supplying the brain, causing a stroke or a mini-stroke / transient ischaemic attack (TIA).
Symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack include:
If you develop any of these symptoms you should seek urgent medical attention.
Carotid disease can be diagnosed non-invasively with an ultrasound.
If intervention on the plaque in the neck is being considered, other tests such as a CT angiogram or catheter angiogram may be required.
People with plaque in the blood vessels to their brain can be treated with medications, and may require carotid surgery or carotid stenting. The decision on what treatment is best to treat your condition will be discussed with you after review of your history, physical examination and the results of your investigations.