Giant Cell Arteritis

Giant cell arteritis is a disorder that causes inflammation of your arteries, usually in the scalp, neck, and arms. It narrows the arteries, which keeps blood from flowing well. Giant cell arteritis often occurs with another disorder called polymyalgia rheumatica. Both are more common in women than in men. They almost always affect people over the age of 50.

Early symptoms of giant cell arteritis resemble the flu: fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever. Other symptoms include

  • Headaches
  • Pain and tenderness over the temples
  • Double vision or visual loss, dizziness
  • Problems with coordination and balance
  • Pain in your jaw and tongue

Your doctor will make the diagnosis based on your medical history, symptoms, and a physical exam. There is no single test to diagnose giant cell arteritis, but you may have tests that measure inflammation.

Treatment is usually with corticosteroids. Early treatment is important; otherwise there is a risk of permanent vision loss or stroke. However, when properly treated, giant cell arteritis rarely comes back.

NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis

The following features are indicative of Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • severe head pain
  • scalp tenderness
  • jaw pain
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • unintended weight loss
  • vision loss
  • double vision
  • permanent loss of vision in one eye
It is possible that Giant Cell Arteritis shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Giant Cell Arteritis

The following are the most common causes of Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • body's immune system attacks the arteries
  • mutation in HLA gene
  • high dose of antibiotics

Risk Factors for Giant Cell Arteritis

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • adults
  • northern European populations
  • Scandinavian descent populations
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • family history of giant cell arteritis

Prevention of Giant Cell Arteritis

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Giant Cell Arteritis.

Occurrence of Giant Cell Arteritis

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Giant Cell Arteritis cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very rare between 1K - 10K cases

Common Age Group

Giant Cell Arteritis most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged > 50 years

Common Gender

Giant Cell Arteritis can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Giant Cell Arteritis

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • Physical exam: To check the temporal arteries
  • Blood tests: To check the erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Biopsy: To see a small sample of the temporal artery
  • Magnetic resonance angiography: To see the detailed images of blood vessels
  • Doppler ultrasound: To produce images of blood flowing through the blood vessels
  • Positron emission tomography: To produce the detailed images of the blood vessels and highlighted areas of inflammation

Doctor for Diagnosis of Giant Cell Arteritis

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • Rheumatologist

Complications of Giant Cell Arteritis if untreated

Yes, Giant Cell Arteritis causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Giant Cell Arteritis is left untreated:
  • blindness
  • aortic aneurysm
  • stroke

Self-care for Giant Cell Arteritis

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • Eat a healthy diet: Helps in preventing potential problems, such as thinning bones, high blood pressure and diabetes

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Giant Cell Arteritis

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Giant Cell Arteritis:
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements: Prevents bone loss
  • Exercise regularly: Improves the mood and overall sense of well-being

Patient Support for Treatment of Giant Cell Arteritis

The following actions may help Giant Cell Arteritis patients:
  • Learn everything about giant cell arteritis and its treatment: Makes you feel comfortable and helps in controlling your condition
  • Online support groups: Helps in coping with the disease

Time for Treatment of Giant Cell Arteritis

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Giant Cell Arteritis to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • More than 1 year

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Giant Cell Arteritis.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica

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