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Signs and Symptoms

Most Do Not Have Symptoms

Unfortunately, carotid artery disease may not cause any signs or symptoms until the arteries are badly blocked. As a result, for some people, the first sign of the disease may be a stroke.

Warning Signs of Stroke

There are warning signs of stroke, however. A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is a "mini-stroke." A TIA occurs as a result of temporary reduction in the blood flow to the brain. Symptoms of a TIA typically may last for only a few minutes but can be present for as long as 24 hours:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the face, or in one arm or leg
  • Inability to control the movement of an arm or leg
  • Loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Inability to speak clearly
  • Dizziness or confusion

Immediate Treatment is Critical

These symptoms typically go away within 24 hours. However, you should not ignore them. A TIA can progress into a major stroke. If you experience symptoms of a TIA, you should call 911 immediately. If such symptoms persist after 24 hours, you have probably suffered a stroke. Even if a TIA does not progress into a major stroke, it is a strong predictor of future strokes. If you have experienced a TIA, you are 10 times more likely to suffer a major stroke than someone who has not had a TIA.

If you suffer a stroke, it is critical that you get treatment immediately. It is very important to get treatment within one hour of the start of symptoms. Without quick treatment, a stroke can result in permanent brain damage, long-term disability, paralysis or death.

Contact Information

Cardiovascular Medicine
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215