Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis)

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also known as temporal arteritis, is an inflammation of arteries, usually in the head and neck. It is a common type of inflammation of the arteries and veins. It usually affects people over 50. Contact your GP immediately if you have any of the symptoms of the condition, (see below).

Symptoms of GCA

Symptoms of GCA include:

  • a headache that develops suddenly and usually affects the front or the side of the head (temples)
  • jaw pain which typically occurs when chewing or talking
  • problems with vision, such as reduced or total loss of vision in one or both eyes. This is often described as like having a shade over your eye. Double vision. If the arteritis is  left untreated, the visual problems can result in permanent blindness

The symptoms usually develop quite quickly, although many people report other symptoms, such as:

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Around half of people with GCA also develop polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), a related but less serious condition. PMR causes inflammation of the muscles and sometimes the joints. The symptoms of PMR can develop before, after, or at the same time as the symptoms of GCA.

When to see your GP

GCA needs urgent medical attention and treatment with steroids. Without prompt treatment it can lead to permanent visual impairment.

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the main symptoms of GCA (see above).

An examination of your symptoms and blood tests may be carried out if it's thought you have GCA.

You may need to go to hospital for further testing.

Treatment for GCA

Treatment for GCA will usually begin as soon as possible. This may mean that treatment begins before a diagnosis is confirmed.

The main treatment for GCA is steroid medication (corticosteroids).

Your GP will discuss which treatment is most appropriate for you.

Complications

The damage to the blood vessels in GCA can increase the risk of serious problems developing. These include:

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from NHS Choices.

For further information, read terms and conditions.

This page was published January 2018

This page is due for review February 2019

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