What are the Symptoms of a Dilated Aorta?

A dilated aorta refers to the abnormal enlargement or widening of the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The symptoms of a dilated aorta can vary depending on the location and extent of the dilation, as well as the underlying cause. Common symptoms and signs may include:

  • Chest Pain: Dilation of the ascending aorta, known as thoracic aortic aneurysm, can cause chest pain or discomfort. This pain may be sudden, severe, and is often described as tearing or ripping. It can radiate to the back or between the shoulder blades.
  • Back Pain: In cases of thoracic aortic aneurysms, back pain is a common symptom, often felt as a deep, aching discomfort.
  • Pulsating Sensation: Some individuals with an aortic aneurysm may feel a pulsating sensation in the chest or abdomen. This pulsation is often more noticeable in thin individuals.
  • Shortness of Breath: An enlarged aorta can press on nearby structures, including the trachea or bronchi, leading to difficulty breathing, particularly when lying down.
  • Hoarseness: Pressure on the recurrent laryngeal nerve can cause hoarseness and voice changes.
  • Cough: A persistent, dry cough can result from irritation of the airways due to the pressure exerted by a dilated aorta.
  • Swallowing Difficulties: Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, may occur if the enlarged aorta compresses the esophagus.
  • Chest Discomfort: A feeling of fullness or pressure in the chest may be experienced, especially when there’s pressure on the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart).
  • Abdominal Pain: An aneurysm in the abdominal aorta can cause abdominal pain or discomfort, which can be deep or steady.
  • Cold or Discolored Extremities: Reduced blood flow to the extremities, known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), can cause cold, pale, or discolored fingers or toes.
  • High Blood Pressure: In some cases, a dilated aorta can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), which may exacerbate the dilation.

It’s important to note that many individuals with a dilated aorta may not experience any symptoms, especially in the early stages. Aortic aneurysms are often discovered incidentally during routine medical exams or imaging studies for other conditions.

Dilated aortas can be caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, connective tissue disorders, or traumatic injury. The risk of complications, such as aortic dissection or rupture, increases as the aneurysm enlarges.

If you experience any symptoms suggestive of a dilated aorta, especially sudden and severe chest or back pain, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and management are essential to prevent potential life-threatening complications. Treatment may include lifestyle modifications, medication to lower blood pressure, or surgical intervention to repair or replace the dilated portion of the aorta.