Carotid artery pain stems from three known conditions, two of which are related to cholesterol deposits. When plaque blocks blood flow to the brain, it causes carotid artery disease. Arteriosclerosis can also cause pain in the carotid artery when the walls of the arteries thicken or harden, hindering the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other vital organs. Carotidynia is a common source of pain with no known cause, and it can appear as a throbbing or dull pain that increases when palpated.
High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and a diet high in fatty foods might lead to carotid artery pain. Obesity, lack of exercise, and a family history of carotid artery disease might also contribute to the problem. Carotid artery stenosis means that the arteries have become blocked by cholesterol deposits, also called hardening of the arteries. If these vessels become completely blocked, it could cause a stroke and permanent brain damage within three to six hours.
Strokes might also occur if an artery ruptures or if plaque breaks loose and enters a smaller artery in the brain. Blood clots also might cause pain in the carotid arteries. These arteries transport blood to the front part of the brain, which controls personality, speech, motor skills, and sensory perception.
Arteriosclerosis is diagnosed when arterial walls lose elasticity and become thick or hardened. This disorder may stem from the same lifestyle and dietary habits as carotid artery disease, along with stress. If the organs are deprived of oxygen, paralysis and memory loss can follow. Symptoms of arteriosclerosis include pain, numbness, and dizziness.
Carotidynia can provoke pain in the face, neck, ear, or head that may increase when a person is swallowing or chewing food. Its cause is unknown, but the condition occurs more often in women. Carotid artery pain from this disorder might disappear on its own without treatment.
The carotid arteries are found on each side of the neck, and they can be located by feeling for a pulse as the heart pumps blood to the brain. Pain in these arteries is commonly felt along the neck and in the face. If the pain persists, it might signal the need for anti-inflammatory medication.
Treatment generally involves medication that prevents blood from clotting too much. These drugs might be effective when less than 50% of an artery is blocked. When more than half of the artery is obstructed, surgery may be required.