Question

Carotid Artery Disease

What happens when the carotid artery is blocked?

A Answers (3)

  • Because the carotid arteries deliver blood to the brain, carotid artery disease can have serious implications by reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to function. Even a brief interruption in blood supply can cause problems. Brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen. If the narrowing of the carotid arteries becomes severe enough to block blood flow, or a piece of atherosclerotic plaque breaks off and obstructs blood flow to the brain, a stroke may occur.
  • A narrowing, hardening or irregularity of the carotid artery can cause a blood clot or accumulation of debris to form in the artery. This is known as carotid artery disease. The debris may break off into the blood stream and interfere with blood flow to the eyes and brain. A reduction of blood flow through one of the carotid arteries may cause temporary vision loss in the eye on the same side. The loss of vision is like a curtain being drawn over the eye and usually lasts just one or two minutes. Weakness or numbness can also occur on one side of the body.

    Temporary blockages of the arteries are called transient ischemic attacks (tia). You should see your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) or physician immediately if you experience such episodes. TIAs are warning signs that a complete blockage of the artery may occur.

    A complete blockage of the carotid artery can cause a stroke. The effects of stroke can be either mild (loss of side vision or slight muscle weakness) or severe (complete loss of vision, paralysis of one side of the body, loss of speech).

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  • AJames Benenati, MD, Interventional Radiology, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South Florida
    The carotid artery provides blood flow to your brain. There’s a carotid artery on each side of your neck. If a blockage in these arteries occurs -- usually caused by a buildup called plaque -- the blood supply to your brain may be reduced, which can cause a stroke. Alternatively, if a piece of the plaque breaks off and travels from the carotid artery in the neck to the brain, it can also cause a stroke.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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