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Coarctation of the Aorta

Coarctation of the aorta is a relatively common heart defect that is caused by the narrowing of your aorta (the large blood vessel that branches off your heart and delivers oxygen-rich blood to your body). When this happens, your heart must pump harder to force blood through the narrow part of your aorta. Generally congenital (from birth), a coarctation can occur anywhere in the aorta, but it is most often found just beyond the point where the arteries that carry the blood to the upper body and head branch off from the aorta. Men are almost twice as likely to have coarctation of the aorta than women.

What are the symptoms of coarctation of the aorta?
Symptoms depend on how much blood can flow through the artery. Other heart defects may also play a role. In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all. When seen, symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Shortness of breath, especially when exercising
  • Pounding headache
  • Chest pain
  • Cold feet or legs
  • Nosebleed
  • Leg cramps with exercise
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)