Clogged Artery: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications, Diagnosis

What is a Clogged Artery?

A clogged artery is an artery which does not allow blood to flow through it partially or completely. Arteries are one of the types of blood vessels which supply oxygen rich blood to different parts of the body from brain to toe. They consist of especially smooth inner walls to facilitate easy flow of blood. An unwanted substance called plague can build up on the inner walls of arteries and result in clogging of arteries or clogged artery resulting in low blood pressure or even complete obstruction.

Clogged Artery

Clogged artery makes you prone to the numerous heart problems like stroke and heart attack which can be life threatening. Thus is very important for everyone to be aware of causes and the strategies for treatment to keep yourself safe and healthy.

What are the Causes of Clogged Artery or What Blocks Your Arteries?

The cause of a clogged artery is arterial plaque. The substance plaque is formed by the combination of various substances that flows with the blood like fat, calcium, cellular waste, cholesterol, and even fibrin which helps in blood clotting. The walls of the arteries can respond to the plaque formation by secreting special substances which can make the situation worse.

Continuous build up of plaque leads to a specific condition called atherosclerosis results in which the arteries tend to become hard and narrow (clogged artery).

The exact causes for the occurrence of atherosclerosis are still unknown, there are speculations that any damage to arterial wall can lead to this situation. Damage to the walls of arteries may be caused by following reasons:

  • High ”bad” cholesterol and low ”good” cholesterol can cause clogged artery. Increase in the levels of lipoprotein (LDL) referred as ”bad” cholesterol is the main reason for building of arterial plague. However there is another type of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which is referred as good cholesterol that flows in the blood and prevents the deposition of bad cholesterol to cause clogging by removing the same from walls of arteries and delivering it to the liver for elimination.
  • High blood pressure (B.P) can cause clogged artery. High Blood Pressure puts you in higher risk of clogged artery by accelerating the process of plaque formation. It can also cause clogged arteries to harden.
  • Cigarette smoking can cause clogged artery. Smoking Cigarette is also supposed to increase the risk of atherosclerosis in the arteries present in heart and legs, and can even affect aorta which is the largest artery of our body.
  • Diabetes also plays a role in causing clogged artery. The individuals having diabetes of even high level of blood sugar are more likely to have clogged artery due to formation of arterial plaque.

It is a long process in which the plague starts to form during the early ages as early as childhood or teenage and ultimately result into clogged artery or clogging of arteries during middle ages or after.

Symptoms to Identify Clogged Arteries: What Happens When You Have a Clogged Artery?

Generally, there are no symptoms associated with clogged artery or clogging of arteries until it results into something serious like stroke or heart attack. In a very few cases where arteries are blocked by more than or equal to 70 percent, it might show some of the symptoms like:

  • Pain in chest can be a major symptom of clogged artery.
  • Nausea is another symptom of clogged artery.
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sweating
  • Irregular Heart Beat and shortage of energy in body and tiredness are symptoms of clogged artery.

Pain in the chest is also known as angina. The clogged artery or clogging of arteries reduces the flow of blood to the heart which leads to angina.

Clogging of carotid artery generally leads to stroke precursors which are also referred as transient ischemic attacks, or simply TIAs. The following symptoms may be caused by transient ischemic attacks or TIAs:

  • Felling of numbness or weakness on any one half of the body.
  • A condition where you cannot move your leg or arm.
  • Failure of vision on any one eye.
  • Difficulty in speaking clearly.

Clogged artery or clogging of arteries may lead to:

  • Cold feet.
  • Pain in leg.
  • Gangrene.
  • Delay in injuries caused in the feet.

Complications Associated with Clogged Arteries

The complications associated with clogged arteries are largely dependent on the location of clogged artery. It affects the various parts differently and cause one or more of the following problems:

  • Coronary artery disease is a complication of clogged artery. Clogging of arteries can also lead to other heart problems like coronary artery disease which can result in heart attacks. Heart Attack is one of the major issues responsible for loss of lives in the United States.
  • Carotid artery disease is another complication of clogged artery. The carotid arteries are one of the specific groups of arteries that carry oxygenated blood to brain and are located on either sides of neck. Any cases of clogging of carotid artery can result in stroke.
  • Another complication of clogged artery is peripheral artery disease. Peripheral arteries carry oxygenated blood to your legs. Any cause of clogging of peripheral artery will reduce the supply of oxygen to legs leading to numbness, pain or even serious infection in feet or leg or both.

Tests to Diagnose Clogged Arteries

Clogged artery or clogging of arteries can be determined with the help of some tests. The doctor usually looks for the symptoms and determines medical history to suggest a suitable test. The list of tests to diagnose clogged artery are as follows:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • MRI or PET scanning
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Ultrasound
  • Angiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram and/or cardiac stress test.
  • CT scan.

Treatment of Clogged Arteries

Clogged arteries can be treated in a number of ways. The exact treatment or prevention method that will suit you will depend on the level of clogging and also on your medical history. Doctor analyzes these factors and suggests one or more of the following strategies:

  1. Changes in Lifestyle for Treating Clogged Arteries

    Usually adopting a healthy lifestyle is beneficial and very helpful in treating clogged artery or clogging of arteries and preventing formation of plaque in arteries. It includes following changes in lifestyle:

    • Reducing the amount of cholesterol and saturated fats in your diet can be helpful in treating clogged artery. This can be done by foods items which contain less carbohydrates and sugars and eating lots of vegetables and fruits.
    • Keeping your body weight in control.
    • Quit smoking.
    • Make a routine of exercising daily.
    • Keeping stress in control.
    • Maintaining proper blood pressure and level of cholesterol in blood to treat clogged artery.
    • Ensuring lower levels of sugar in blood.
  2. Surgical Procedures for Treating Clogged Artery

    Some of the cases of clogged arteries may require surgical methods for treatment and preventing further plague accumulation. The following surgical methods are used for treatment of clogged artery:

    • Stent placement for treating clogged artery. This method involves inserting a stent which is actually a metallic tube into the artery for ensuring proper flow of blood. The stent may also contain medication in some cases.
    • Bypass surgery for treating clogged artery. In this method, a part of the artery is taken from some part of the body and placed in parallel to work as a bypass path for the flow of blood.
    • Balloon angioplasty for treating clogged artery. In this method, the situation is treated by opening the arteries which are clogged by the plague formation.
  3. Medications for Treating Clogged Artery

    Medications can also help in reducing the clogged artery or clogging of arteries by taking care of the reasons leading to formation of plague. The following medications are used for treatment of clogged arteries:

    • Drugs which can reduce cholesterol in blood.
    • Drugs which can reduce Blood pressure.
    • Medications which can reduce the density of blood like Aspirin and prevent any chances of clotting of blood.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 4, 2018

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