A blocked artery in the neck is a serious condition that needs to be addressed. When the arteries in the neck become blocked due to a clot or atherosclerosis, you are at an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Getting regular checkups and taking steps to chose healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of blocked arteries. This condition may occur with no symptoms at all, so getting tested is crucial. There are some warning signs that can alert you to a problem. Below are some things to watch for.
Blood travels from your body to your brain through two major arteries called the carotid arteries. These arteries run from your chest, through your neck and up to the brain. See the image here. These arteries can become blocked if there is a build-up of plaque along the artery walls, or if a piece of plaque breaks loose and forms a clot. When these arteries become damaged, you are diagnosed with carotid artery disease.
Absence of Symptoms
According to the American Heart Association, in the early stages of developing blocked neck arteries, there are usually no symptoms at all. This is why heart disease is often referred to as a "silent disease." Your body can continue to function even though the arteries are partly blocked. It may not be until your artery is severely blocked or completely blocked that the symptoms or conditions listed below will occur.
TIA stands for transient ischemic attack and is basically a mini stroke. This is your body's way of warning you that your neck arteries are becoming blocked to a dangerous level. Symptoms and signs of TIA's include feeling weak or having tingling sensations on one side of your body, losing vision in one eye or having trouble speaking. TIA's can last a few seconds or a few hours. The signs and symptoms usually resolve themselves within 24 hours. Sometimes they can be so minor, you may not connect it with a serious health problem. However, you need to follow up with a medical professional immediately if you believe you are having a TIA in order to prevent more serious health problems.
If the arteries become completely blocked, blood cannot get to the brain. A loss of blood to the brain for more than a few minutes can cause some cells in the brain to start to die. The result is a stroke. Strokes can cause permanent brain damage, disability or death. If you are having a stroke, you will have some or all of the following symptoms: You may be unable to move one side of your body; be unable to speak; lose vision in one or both eyes; have weakness in the facial muscles, usually on one side; feel dizzy; have an inability to maintain balance; and/or have a severe headache.
Since blocked neck arteries can occur without symptoms, it is important to see your doctor if you believe you are at risk. Your physician can take a complete medical history as well as perform specific tests to determine if your arteries are blocked. These tests can include ultrasound and angiography procedures as well as others.