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Giant Cell Arteritis

more about Giant Cell Arteritis

Also see temporal arteritis

  • The disease is caused by inflammation of some of the arteries in the body.  This causes the blood flow in certain areas to be reduced or blocked completely.  The disease usually occurs in older people (usually over the age of 50).  Treatment is with steroids.

  • People with this disease have a high chance of developing blindness because circulation to the eye is blocked.
  • The most common symptoms include -- headache, jaw pain when chewing, tenderness of the scalp, throat pain, or problems with vision.
  • The doctor may notice lumps or tenderness when examining the temporal artery.
  • Other symptoms include a difference in the pulse or blood pressure between the two arms, fever without any infection, dry cough, numbness, or weakness of one part of the body.
  • Many people with this disease also have another disease called polymyalgia rheumatica.

  • The disease is caused by inflammation of some of the arteries in the body.
  • The cause of the inflammation is not known.

  • The diagnosis is usually suggested by the symptoms.
  • Blood tests (such as ESR) can help detection if there is a lot of inflammation in the body. The white blood cell count is usually normal.
  • The best test to make the diagnosis is a biopsy of the temporal artery (in which a piece of the artery is removed and sent to the lab to be examined).

  • Blindness in the most serious complication of this disease.  Therefore, if the disease is suspected, it is crucial that treatment with steroids be started immediately.  Steroids will decrease the inflammation and prevent blindness, but only if started early.
  • Once blindness has occurred, it is usually permanent, and will not be reversed even with steroids.
  • Prednisone is the steroid most often used to treat this disease.  It is usually started at a dose of 60 mg a day for 1-2 months.  The dose is then slowly reduced and eventually stopped as the inflammation decreases.
  • People with temporal arteritis have a higher risk of developing an enlarged and dilated aorta in the chest.  Therefore, they must be watched carefully to make sure that the aorta does not become dilated or tear open.  This could result in death.  Follow up treatment by a doctor is critical.

more about Giant Cell Arteritis

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