Print
Request Appointment

Carotid Artery Problems: Blockage

The blood carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The carotid arteries are large blood vessels that carry blood to the brain. Certain health problems can make the inside of the carotid arteries narrow and rough. Over time, this damage increases the chances of having a stroke. A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. 

Open carotid arteries Healthy carotid artery.

In a healthy carotid artery, the inside of the artery is open. The lining of the artery wall is also smooth. This lets blood flow freely from the heart to the brain. The brain gets all the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function well.

Narrowed carotid arteries

Health factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes, can damage artery walls and make them rough. This allows cholesterol and other particles in the blood to stick to the artery walls and form plaque or fatty deposits. As the plaque builds up, it can narrow the artery. Blood may also collect on the plaque and form blood clots.

How a stroke happens

A stroke can happen when plaque in the carotid artery ruptures. This can allow small pieces of plaque to break off into the bloodstream. At the same time, rupture can make more blood clots. The pieces of plaque and tiny blood clots or emboli can flow in the blood until they get stuck in a small blood vessel in the brain. This blocks blood flow to part of the brain and causes a stroke.

Blood clot blocking carotid artery and emboli breaking off clot. Inset shows damage to brain.

 

Was this helpful?

Yes No
 

Tell us more.

Check all that apply.
 
 
 
 
 
NEXT ▶

Last question: How confident are you filling out medical forms by yourself?

Not at all A little Somewhat Quite a bit Extremely

Thank You!

 
 Visit Other Fairview Sites 
 
 
(c) 2012 Fairview Health Services. All rights reserved.