Symptoms of CoA usually depend on the severity of the condition. Patients with a more serious form of the condition may show signs and symptoms shortly after birth, while more mild forms of the condition may not display obvious signs or symptoms until adulthood.
When the condition is severe and diagnosed in children, symptoms may include:
- Sudden heart failure
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Heavy sweating
- Sickly sweet-smelling breath
The symptoms of bad breath and vomiting occur due to a major rise in the acid level of the blood and tissues as the flow of blood to far parts of the body is impaired.
Symptoms in older children and adults may include:
- High blood pressure in general or high blood pressure in the arms compared to the legs
- A soft sound heard in the lungs, usually louder in the back. This often occurs where the defect is.
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle weakness
- Leg cramps
- Pulses in the legs can be felt but are softer and delayed compared with those in the arms
- Chest pain
Another symptom found in older children and adults with the condition is increased blood flow through the arteries of the chest, which is visible on X-rays. This usually doesn't appear before the patient is 10 to 12 years old.
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of CoA is unknown. Because CoA often develops along with other congenital heart defects, having one of the following conditions may increase the chances of a patient having CoA:
- Bicuspid aortic valve
- Having only one ventricle
- Ventricular septal defect
- Patent ductus arteriosus
- Aortic valve stenosis
- Mitral valve stenosis
The condition generally develops before birth; however, in some rare cases patients may develop CoA later in life. Developing the condition later in life may arise from:
- A traumatic injury
- Severe hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Inflammation of the arteries (Takayasu's arteritis)