The cause of a torn aorta can be pressure from uncontrolled hypertension that causes a weakened area in the wall of the aorta to tear, according to Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include a sudden, tearing, radiating pain in the chest or the upper back.
The aorta can also tear because of an injury to the chest, says Mayo Clinic. People can also be born with conditions where their aorta or other blood vessels are weakened or enlarged. Aging and hardening of the arteries can also increase the risk of a torn aorta, says MedlinePlus. Other conditions include abnormalities in the aortic valve, narrowing of the aorta, pregnancy, and swelling of blood vessels because of disease.
There are two types of aortic tears, or aortic dissections, says Mayo Clinic. In Type A, the aorta is torn in its upper area. In Type B, the aorta is torn in its lower area. Both the upper and lower aorta reach into the abdomen.
A person who experiences a torn aorta may also pass out and have difficulty catching his breath or speaking, claims Mayo Clinic. He may go blind or suffer paralysis on one side of his body. The pulse in one arm is weaker than the pulse in the other arm. This is a medical emergency.