Signs & symptoms of carotid artery blockage

Updated April 17, 2017

The carotid arteries are located in the front of your neck and the back of your neck, two in each area. They come together at the base of your brain to form what is called the basilar artery. When these arteries become blocked, strokes can and will occur. Most of the reason for this is that fatty deposits, called plaque, narrow the arteries, blocking the flow of blood to the brain.

Sometimes there are no symptoms attached to carotid artery disease, and there are rarely any warning signs. Most of the time, transient ischemic attacks (TIA) occur, which are mini-strokes, signalling a carotid artery issue. TIA symptoms include headache, dizziness, tingling, numbness, blurred vision, confusion and paralysis.

Risk Factors and Diagnostic Tools

There are several factors that increase the risk of developing carotid artery disease, including smoking, high cholesterol, high alcohol consumption, obesity, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and a family history. Doctors use several diagnostic tools like Doppler ultrasound imaging, magnetic resonance angiography, oculoplethysmography and arteriography and digital subtraction angiography. Surgery, medicines and transcatheter interventions are all used to treat the disease.


A symptom of carotid artery blockage is weakness or paralysis, specifically of the arm, leg, face or one side of your body. Another symptom is numbness of your arm, leg or face on one side of your body. This is due to a lack of blood flow to that side of the body.

Loss of Eyesight

Sometimes what begins as blurry vision will quickly turn into a loss of eyesight. The loss of eyesight occurs on the side where the carotid artery is blocked, and blood flow is reduced.


Dizziness, fainting or confusion are also common symptoms. This occurs when the artery is blocked and the brain cannot get enough oxygen or blood, causing such a symptom.

Trouble Swallowing

Trouble swallowing also signals carotid artery disease. This is caused by pressure from the blocked artery, putting pressure on the nerves that enable one to swallow and, in some cases, damaging the nerve.


Carotid artery disease is treated several ways, including blood thinning medications such as aspirin to help prevent blood clots. Medication to lower blood pressure is also often prescribed. Surgery is often an option to remove the blocked section of the artery.

Lifestyle Changes

Following a carotid artery blockage, a doctor may order lifestyle changes for an individual in addition to medications. These changes may include daily exercise, a decrease in salt intake, limited amount of alcohol and no smoking.

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