Arterial blockages can cause serious problems when they prevent blood from reaching important parts of the body, such as the heart and brain. However, the symptoms of blocked arteries are not always obvious until they become life-threatening problems, such as heart attack or stroke. Sometimes the only way to know if you have a blocked artery is to have a screening test, such as a carotid Doppler ultrasound, which can check for blockages that could put you at risk of stroke.
Why are arteries blocked?
Arterial blockages are caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, in which fat from the blood sticks to the inside of the arteries. Over time, this material accumulates in sufficient quantities and begins to affect the blood flow. Its effectiveness depends on the location of the blockage. Arterial blockage affects the blood supply to the heart and brain, so these organs require a continuous supply of oxygen to function properly.
Arterial occlusion symptoms
Arterial blockages don’t always cause obvious symptoms, so the problem often goes away without a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes there may be warning signs of blocked arteries before they cause a serious event. Angina occurs when the blood vessels that supply the heart become blocked. It causes symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and sweating caused by physical activity. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or small strokes can occur when there is a blockage in the brain. Symptoms may include temporary weakness on one side of your body, loss of vision in one eye, or slurred speech. Angina can be a sign that you are at risk of having a heart attack, and a TIA is a warning sign that you are at risk of a major stroke, so it is important to take these symptoms seriously and see your doctor.
Arterial occlusion test
Heart screening can determine if you’re at risk for blocked arteries by checking for problems like high cholesterol, which increase the likelihood of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. If you’re at high risk, have problems like angina, or have had a stroke or heart attack, there are several tests to check for blockages in your arteries. At the Cardiac Screening Clinic, we can use ultrasound to look for signs of blockage. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart that helps assess the risk of heart disease, while a carotid Doppler ultrasound measures blood flow in the arteries that feed the brain. Carotid Doppler is used to assess stroke risk. If any problems are found during these tests, treatment can improve blood flow to the blocked artery and help reduce the risk.