Signs & Symptoms Heart & Vascular

Carotid Artery Disease
Signs and Symptoms

Carotid artery blockages are caused by hardening of the arteries, called atherosclerosis. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking cigarettes

Strokes occur when pieces of the diseased artery break off and travel into the brain, eventually blocking blood flow, causing part of the brain to die. This can either cause a full-blown stroke, resulting in permanent neurological problems in a minority of people, or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which produces the same symptoms as a stroke but resolves in less than a day, often in a matter of minutes.

Symptoms of both stroke and a transient ischemic attack (TIA) include:

  • Weakness or paralysis of a limb or one side of the body
  • Inability to speak or articulate clearly
  • Blindness or other visual changes in one or both eyes

Along with atherosclerosis, there are other less common conditions that also can affect the carotid arteries, including:

  • Aneurysms or swelling of the artery
  • Carotid artery dissections, where the wall of the artery splits
  • Carotid body tumors, which are tumor that arises from and involves the carotid arteries
  • Fibromuscular dysplasia, an inflammatory condition of the artery
  • Inominate artery disease, or blockages in an artery below the carotid artery
  • Recurrent blockages after prior carotid artery surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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