An aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning of the wall of a blood vessel. This can occur in several of the body’s arteries including the carotid arteries in the neck, which carry blood to the brain, as described by the Cleveland Clinic. An aneurysm in the carotid artery can progressively stretch and weaken an area of the wall, leading to a rupture of the artery. This can occur in the extracranial region of the carotid artery in the neck, or the intracranial region, which is in the brain. Aneurysms cause much more obvious and dangerous life-threatening symptoms when they rupture, and emergency medical treatment is then required.
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Transient Ischemic Attack
Symptoms of a carotid artery aneurysm include a mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA). According to MedlinePlus, a TIA is an episode in which a person has temporary stroke-like symptoms that can include slight facial drooping, excessive tiredness or sleeping, slight muscle weakness in one side of the body, slurred speech or difficulty speaking and dizziness. A TIA is often considered a warning sign that a true stroke may happen in the future if something is not done to prevent it.
Carotid aneurysms can form clots in the artery that block blood flowing to the brain. According to a study published by the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), carotid artery blockages were present in 6.2 percent of the total participants screened in the study. Carotid artery blockages can lead to debilitating strokes that cause paralysis, brain damage or death. The blood clot may also break away from the aneurysm and travel to the brain, leading to cerebral artery blockages.
Severe headache pain that begins suddenly is a characteristic sign of a ruptured aneurysm in the carotid artery, as well as other arteries in the brain. This pain is so severe that most individuals describe it as the "worst pain ever felt," according to the Merck.com. The extreme headache pain is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, a stiff neck and in some cases, temporary loss of consciousness, as described by the Mayfield Clinic.
Nerve and Blood Vessel Pressure
The Cleveland Clinic notes that secondary symptoms due to a carotid artery aneurysm may be caused by pressure on surrounding structures. As the aneurysm dilates, it squeezes against nerves and veins, leading to symptoms such as facial swelling and tingling, numbness on the face or in the mouth, loss of voice or hoarseness, difficulty speaking and difficulty swallowing.
The Mayfield Clinic lists vision problems as symptoms of an unruptured carotid artery aneurysm. The aneurysm may cause blurred or double vision, chronically dilated pupils, as well as pain above and behind the eyes. In the case of a ruptured carotid artery, temporary loss of vision may also occur.