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An occlusion is a complete or partial blockage of a blood vessel. While occlusions can happen in both veins and arteries, the more serious ones occur in the arteries. An occlusion can reduce or even stop the flow of oxygen-rich blood to downstream vital tissues like the heart, brain, or extremities.
The expert cardiology specialists at Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute of Greater Sacramento provide the coronary occlusion care you need to live a long, heart healthy life. Find a Doctor near you for personal care for occlusions in Sacramento and surrounding areas.
Most occlusions are caused by either a blood clot or the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). A blood clot can form at the site of occlusion, or it can travel from another area through the bloodstream and block an artery. That runaway clot is called an embolism. Blood clots often produce sudden, severe signs and symptoms.
Blockages due to atherosclerosis buildup over time and sometimes cause milder symptoms. It’s possible for pieces of plaque to break off and completely block blood flow to the heart or brain, for example. Early diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis allows time for treatment before it triggers a major event like a heart attack.
The signs and symptoms of an arterial occlusion will vary, depending on the affected artery. The most serious blockages occur in the coronary arteries of the heart, peripheral arteries supplying blood to the legs and arms, and carotid arteries in the neck.
Coronary occlusions are of the coronary arteries and may produce heart attack symptoms, including chest pain. Women with coronary occlusions experience nausea and vomiting more often than chest pain. Carotid artery occlusions can cause stroke symptoms or a severe headache. Blockages in the peripheral arteries can cause pain, cool skin, or numbness in the affected limb. A blockage can also occur in the veins of the eyes, causing conditions like retinal vein occlusion.
Our state-of-the-art treatment and prevention strategies for occlusions depend on the cause of the blockage, the severity of the condition, and your overall health.
For occlusions caused by blood clots, initial treatment might focus on dissolving the clot using medications. The cardiologists at Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute may prescribe blood thinning medications to prevent future clots. Blood thinning medications also can help prevent occlusions in people at risk.
For plaque and atherosclerosis, treatment may include prescription medications to reduce cholesterol and lifestyle changes to protect your heart and keep it as healthy as possible. If plaque buildup causes a heart attack or other serious event, the initial treatment might be surgery to treat the blockage and restore blood flow.
You can help prevent occlusions by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle and getting regular checkups. The goal is to reduce your risk of blockages. Talk to your Dignity Health doctor to learn more today.