Every cell in our body needs oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to function, and the arteries serve as the pathway that enables them to circulate from head to toe. If this blood supply gets cut off for whatever reason, you may experience different kinds of symptoms with varying degrees of severity. Depending on the affected organs and tissues, they may continue functioning normally despite the drop in blood supply and regenerate or completely die off with no chance of recovery.
Early symptoms of a clogged artery
When it comes to clogged arteries, the brain and the heart are the two most important organs to consider. A stroke, or more specifically, an ischemic stroke, is a common type of artery blockage that affects a blood vessel supplying blood and oxygen to the brain.
Similarly, coronary artery disease (CAD) develops when the arteries supplying the heart with blood get blocked or narrowed over time due to plaques. These plaques are essentially buildups of fat that can increase in size until they break off into pieces that get lodged in other areas of the blood vessels or get big enough to cause a complete blockage where no blood can flow through.
Every second counts in the case of both ischemic stroke and CAD, as tissues in the brain and heart die quickly if they are deprived of oxygen for too long, resulting in permanent and irreversible damage. In short, a blockage that leads to a stroke may result in neurological symptoms, while those that affect the coronary arteries usually cause a heart attack.
Symptoms of a clogged cerebral artery include:
- Slurred speech
- Facial drooping
- Changes in vision
- Balance problems
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Meanwhile, some of the symptoms of a clogged coronary artery are:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain that radiates into the arms, back, neck, and jaw
- Sudden loss of consciousness
The symptoms of a stroke are highly specific to the certain part of the brain where blood flow has stopped. Once the tissues are damaged, normal functioning in those areas can no longer be restored.
Likewise, clogged arteries in other parts of the body will cause symptoms specific to those areas. For instance, a blockage in a retinal artery will cause vision problems, while a clogged peripheral artery will cause swelling in the legs and feet. As such, if you notice symptoms that reduce or weaken function anywhere in your body, consult with a virtual doctor in Singapore as soon as possible. Other unusual symptoms that look out for are:
- Change in urine colour
- Change in skin colour
- Cold hands or feet
- Back pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
Causes and risk factors of clogged arteries
High cholesterol is among the primary risk factors for developing blocked arteries. This type of fat circulates in the blood and can cause a buildup in the walls of blood vessels, gradually reducing the space through which blood can pass through until it eventually becomes completely blocked.
Family history and genetics play a big role in developing high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. Other factors that also increase the risk of a clogged artery include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Eating a diet of high cholesterol or high fat
Treatments for clogged arteries
Testing for clogged arteries requires getting tested by your healthcare provider. Upon determining whether or not enough blood is making its way to the more distant tissues in your body, they will recommend the appropriate treatments based on the following:
- Your felt symptoms
- What caused the blockage
- The severity of the problem
Suppose your doctor verifies that your arteries have stiffened or narrowed or you have high cholesterol levels. In that case, they may prescribe a combination of medications and lifestyle strategies to improve the strength and health of your heart and reduce buildup in your blood vessels.
Clearing blocked arteries will require either minimally invasive or invasive treatment. The former typically involves using catheters or stents.
Catheters are small tools placed through arteries in the groin or arm and serve as a way to manually clear blockage at the source or deliver medication. Depending on which part of the body is affected, treatment methods will vary but share the same goal of clearing the clog using tiny tools or medicines that thin the blood.
Your doctor may place stents in the location of the blockage to keep the affected blood vessel open. Upon receiving the device, patients must take blood-thinning medication temporarily or permanently to prevent a new clot from forming.
Arteries are the critical pathways that carry blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. Any clogs or blockages that disrupt blood flow can lead to varying degrees of tissue damage, the most severe of which is when the affected flow is towards the brain or heart. Even a momentary interruption can lead to severe consequences. As such, consult your doctor if you notice the early symptoms of clogged arteries to prevent a full blockage.
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