Blocked carotid artery: causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Blocked carotid artery: causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

We reveal the symptoms that indicate carotid artery problems, to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

The carotid artery is the main artery of the neck and is often the origin of heart attacks and strokes. To prevent them it is important to recognize the symptoms and learn not to underestimate them.

Most cardiovascular problems derive precisely from the obstruction of the carotid artery or its hardening, which progressively causes a restriction of the lumen inside the vessel, reducing the blood supply. Over time this can cause strokes, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), heart attacks and related organ problems, primarily the heart. To best treat your health, learn to carefully evaluate the signals sent to you by the body, even if they are minor.

What is the carotid artery and where is it located?

The carotid artery is the main artery in the neck. It comes from the thoracic aorta and has the task of bringing blood to the face and brain. In the middle of the neck it is divided into two branches: the external and internal carotid artery. The first deals with spraying the thyroid, facial muscles and mouth organs, while the second passes from the back of the neck, behind the ear, and brings blood to the base of the brain.

From this initial description you can understand its enormous importance. The brain, in fact, is the most important organ of our body and needs to receive blood continuously. Its weight varies between 1300 and 1400 g and receives 20% of the blood. If this does not happen his cells will only be able to survive for a few minutes, before starting to degenerate, giving rise to a stroke.

Blocked carotid artery: symptoms and alarm bells

There are several pathologies that can affect this important vessel, but the most common is carotid stenosis. It is a pathology that mainly affects the carotid bifurcation, that is the point where the carotid artery divides between internal and external and the blood gives life to natural vortices. In the presence of risk factors there is an irritation and a consequent inflammation that cause an accumulation of debris, which form a plaque that will block the normal circulation of the blood. Carotid plaques can be very dangerous because, if they are not detected and treated, they can cause a stroke.

Symptoms of carotid stenosis

In most cases the obstruction of the supra-aortic trunks does not produce symptoms in its initial phase, manifesting itself only when it becomes sufficiently severe to cause stroke or TIA. The symptoms of such brain blood deprivation can be:

  • numbness of the face, often on one side only
  • limb weakness or inability to move them, often on one side only
  • difficulty seeing well, from one or both eyes
  • dizziness
  • strong and sudden headache

What other signals can suggest carotid artery problems?

Often a carotid artery problem is reported by a back discomfort, particularly in the area between the shoulder blades. The pain is not acute, but occurs recurrently. Another symptom not to be underestimated is the soreness of the arms, which is not due to contractures or to particular positions taken during the night. Also pay attention to shortness of breath, one of the most frequent signs when dealing with heart problems. If after simply going up the stairs or walking you can't breathe, there's something wrong.

Added to these symptoms are other important signals that should not be underestimated. First of all the feet that swell easily and indicate a dysfunction in the microcirculation. We are often convinced that water retention or heat is the cause of this reaction, but often the responsibility lies with the carotid artery. Finally, pay attention to the nausea and abdominal pains, which could indicate an arterial malfunction. In any case it is always important to contact a specialist and carry out regular checks. A simple ultrasound scan of the carotid artery (echocolordoppler of the supra-aortic trunks) is sufficient to establish the state of health and possibly start a therapy to solve the problem quickly and without risk.

Blocked carotid artery: causes and risk factors

The causes of these carotid problems can derive from previous pathologies or treatments affecting the area, or from wrong habits. Among the main risk factors we have:

  • smoke
  • high blood levels of some fats and high cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • high blood glucose levels due to insulin resistance or overt diabetes

How are carotid pathologies diagnosed?

  • Anamnesis: the doctor will examine your and your family's medical history to see if there are triggers.
  • Medical examination: with the help of a stethoscope, the doctor will listen to your carotid artery; if a breath is perceived, it will mean that most likely an obstruction is present.
  • Specialized exams: echocolordoppler of supra-aortic trunks, carotid angiography, angiography with magnetic resonance, angiography with computed tomography.

How to prevent carotid artery problems?

A healthy lifestyle is the most effective solution to prevent such problems. Here are some useful tips for preventing carotid diseases:

  • follow a healthy diet: reduce fats, alcohol and red meat in favor of a richer diet of fruit and vegetables.
  • reduce body weight
  • reduce stress levels
  • do moderate but continuous physical activity
  • stop smoking
Category: Health
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