Clogged Neck Artery Symptoms

Written by kathleen blanchard, r.n.
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Clogged Neck Artery Symptoms
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The arteries in the neck supply the brain with blood. If the arteries become clogged, symptoms may or may not occur, depending on the degree of blockage. The arteries at the front of the neck are called the carotid arteries, and they are present on the right and left anterior neck where you can feel a pulse. Either neck artery can become clogged, known as carotid artery stenosis or carotid artery disease. Neck arteries can become blocked in the same way as other arteries in the body, such as the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle. Clogged neck artery symptoms can range from dizziness to stroke.

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Function

The neck arteries supply the brain with blood and oxygen. Carotid artery stenosis limits blood flow. Clogged neck artery symptoms are related to lack of oxygen that occurs to the area of the head and neck supplied with blood flow. The neck arteries originate in the chest from the aorta, which then divides.

Identification

Your doctor can identify a clogged neck artery by listening for abnormal blood flow with a stethoscope. If the lining of the artery is smooth, blood flow is audible without turbulence. Abnormal sounds, called bruits, produced by turbulent blood flow, may be detectable during a physical exam, indicating decreased blood flow to the head and neck. A carotid artery ultrasound measures the degree of blockage more accurately. A carotid artery angiogram accurately determines if surgery is needed for a clogged neck artery. Dye is injected through a catheter, and an x-ray is taken to trace the blood flow when a carotid artery angiogram is performed to diagnose carotid artery stenosis. Clogged neck artery symptoms may not be present in the earliest stages. Carotid artery stenosis is a progressive disease, and it is important to reduce your risk factors for stroke.

Significance

Clogged neck artery symptoms are the same as those associated with a mini stroke. The symptoms occur because blood is not reaching the brain. The symptoms may be transient but should be reported to your doctor so treatment can be started. Plaque build-up can progress, causing permanent disability from stroke when carotid artery stenosis is present.

Symptoms

Feelings of dizziness, blurred vision and loss of vision in one eye signal the possibility of decreased blood flow to the brain from a clogged neck artery. It is typical for the blockage to be worse on one side. Other symptoms include numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. Generalised weakness can occur. Loss of limb movement that may be temporary and difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said are also symptoms of carotid artery stenosis.

Prevention/Solution

Because carotid stenosis can cause stroke and long-term disability, aggressive treatment is needed. Reducing risk factors for stroke from a clogged neck artery includes the same measures as those needed to reduce risk of heart disease. Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medicine and blood thinners. If carotid artery stenosis is severe, surgery may be necessary to remove a portion of the clogged neck artery. Stents (small wire mesh tubes) can also be inserted to open the artery and restore blood flow.

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