Type of disease: Rare conditions
Aortic coarctation describes narrowing of the aorta, the large blood vessel leaving the heart to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the body. This narrowing forces the heart to work harder to pump the blood. It is a congenital condition, meaning it is present at birth, but sometimes is mild enough that it is not detected until adulthood. In babies, symptoms include pale skin, irratibility, sweating, and difficulty breathing. This can cause life-threatening complications if left untreated. Often if the coarctation presents in adolescence or adulthood, it is less severe and simply causes hypertension (high blood pressure). Some people may also get muscle weakness, shortness of breath, headaches, and nose bleeds. One should go to the doctor if chest pain or very high blood pressure are present, as these syptoms raise the risk of stroke, organ failure, or death. The causes of coarctation are unknown, though it often associates with other heart defects or women with Turner syndome, a genetic syndrome caused by a error or mutation in the DNA. A doctor can disagnose coarctation through a chest x-ray or other imaging tests like an echocardiogram. Aortic coarctation and other defects that often come with it are treated with surgery and medications.