Carotid Artery Blockage


The carotid artery blockage is one of the major causes of stroke. When there is plaque formation in the carotid artery it will eventually lead to a blockage. The carotid artery is one of the body's major arteries and is located at the front of the neck.



The artery is the one responsible for transporting oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain. When blood flow to the brain is restricted because of the blockage, the brain becomes deprived of oxygen and nutrients, which can lead to loss in brain function or sudden stroke.

 
Causes

The number one cause of carotid artery blockage is the build up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which are known as plaques. This can lead to a decrease in the arterial blood flow and can eventually lead to clot formations.

Factors that can increase the chances of having carotid artery blockage include:
  • high cholesterol levels in the blood
  • eating foods that are high in fats or cholesterol
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • lack of exercise
  • smoking
  • family history of stroke 
  • cardiovascular disease
  • high blood pressure 
  • diabetes
  • obesity

Signs

Symptoms of carotid artery blockage can go on for years without being evident. You may start feeling the symptoms when the fatty deposits in the carotid artery are already causing an obstruction. When the obstruction is partial, you may encounter a mild stroke, which is sometimes referred as mini stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). But when the obstruction is big enough not to allow blood to pass through, then a full blown stroke can occur.



When an attack takes place, the sufferer may notice one or more of the following symptoms: crushing pain in the chest that may radiate in the neck, chin; difficulty breathing, numbness or paralysis on either side of the body, severe headache, slurring of speech or difficulty speaking, temporary loss of hearing or vision and numbness in the face, leg or arm.
 

Diagnosis

To confirm that you have a carotid artery blockage, your doctor will perform one or more diagnostic procedures. One of these diagnostic procedures is the ultrasound test, which can provide a picture of the blockage and can help determine the quantity of blood flowing through the carotid artery.

Angiogram can also be used to help determine the level of blockage. In this procedure, a radio opaque contrast agent or a special color is added into the carotid artery and an X-ray based imaging is used to locate the exact size and location of the blockage. If a stroke is suspected, one or more of these diagnostic procedures may be performed: PET scan, Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, Carotid Duplex scan, Transesophageal Echocardiography, Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Transcranial Doppler (TCD).
 

In most cases, blood thinners are prescribed to dissolve the plaque. Surgical procedures that can be performed to remove the blockage include carotid angioplasty and endarterectomy.



It is important to seek immediate medical attention when you experience the signs and symptoms of artery blockage because if left unattended, it can lead to stroke, which is a life threatening condition.

 












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