Carotid Artery Disease Signs & Symptoms

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), carotid artery disease may be asymptomatic (i.e., does not cause noticeable symptoms)—unless the condition is severe and results in significant blockage of a carotid artery. In some cases, a carotid bruit (pronounced broo-ee)—sound or murmur heard with a stethoscope—transient ischemic attack (TIA; mini stroke), and stroke may indicate carotid artery disease.

If symptoms of carotid artery disease develop, additional diagnostic tests are performed. Imaging tests used to diagnose carotid artery disease include ultrasound, carotid angiography, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomography angiography.

Carotid artery bruits can result from turbulent or reduced blood flow due to the buildup of plaque. If your health care provider may detect this whooshing sound during physical examination, further testing may be recommended.

Transient ischemic attack—or mini stroke—may be the first indication of carotid artery disease. TIA symptoms are similar to those caused by a stroke and, although they often disappear without treatment—usually within 24 hours—TIAs are warning signs of a high stroke risk.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone around you experiences the following symptoms:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face or extremities (especially on one side of the body)
  • Inability to move an extremity normally
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Unexplained dizziness, loss of balance
  • Sudden, severe headache

Stroke, or brain attack, is a medical emergency that can cause brain damage, long-term disability, and death. Immediate treatment—within 4 hours of symptom onset (see above)—can help improve outcomes in some cases. Learn more about stroke.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 03 Apr 2014

Last Modified: 03 Apr 2014