What Is Carotid Artery Blockage?

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Stroke is the primary concern when a patient is faced with carotid artery blockage. A narrowing or obstruction of these vital routes that deliver oxygen and blood to the brain can lead to the type of cerebral attack that is the number 3 cause of death in the United States.

Identification

  • A carotid artery blockage occurs when one of the two carotid arteries at the front of the neck become clogged with a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque. The resulting condition is known as atherosclerosis.

Significance

  • What is carotid artery blockage? As the carotid arteries carry crucial oxygen and blood to the brain, an obstruction of this flow may result in a stroke. This "brain attack" may also be brought on by plaque which breaks away and travels to the brain (embolization).

Effects

  • Transient ischemic attacks (TIA's) are an indication that a major stroke may be on the way. "TIAs are temporary episodes of headache, dizziness, tingling, numbness, blurred vision, confusion, or paralysis that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours," according to The Texas Heart Institute.

Risks

  • Individuals at greatest risk include those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a family history of the disease, and people who smoke or are overweight.

Symptoms

  • "Symptoms of carotid artery disease include weakness, numbness, paralysis, slurred speech or vision problems," according to the Barnes-Jewish and Washington University Heart and Vascular Center in St. Louis. Tests to diagnose the disease include ultrasound imaging and magnetic resonance angiography.

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