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Giant Cell Arteritis

Overview of Giant Cell Arteritis

Giant cell arteritis causes inflammation of the lining of your arteries. The most commonly affected area is the head, especially points near temples. Individuals aged above 50 are more likely to suffer from this disorder

A person suffering from giant cell arteritis is likely to have severe frequent headaches, a tender scalp, jaw pain, and eyesight issues. In more complex and severe cases, it can also cause blindness.

This condition is treated through corticosteroid medications. This helps in relieving inflammation and tenderness and also helps in retaining vision. As soon as you feel the symptoms kicking in, you must consult your general physician.

Signs and Symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis

The most common symptom of giant cell arteritis is severe and frequent headaches and scalp tenderness. This headache can affect both temples and the pain can worsen, subside, or become a dull throbbing pain with time.

Some other symptoms which you need to be aware of are: 

  • Jaw pain – sharp jaw pain or inability to open your mouth wide or when you try to chew something
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Scalp tenderness  - combing hair can also induce sharp pain in the scalp 
  • Consistent and severe headaches and especially in your temple areas
  • Vision loss – double vision or permanent loss of vision in one eye especially for those who have jaw pain also.
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck
  • Pain in shoulders and hips

The pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders are common symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. This condition is closely associated with giant cell arteritis. 50% of people suffering from giant cell arteritis have polymyalgia rheumatica as well.

Types of Giant Cell Arteritis

Causes of Giant Cell Arteritis

Till now, no definite reason for this disorder has been found. Although age is one of the strongest risk factors. The abnormal attacks by the immune system on the artery walls are likely the cause of this condition.

As a result of the attack, the lining of arteries becomes inflamed and swollen. This swelling causes a blockage in the flow of blood to our body’s tissues.

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Risk Factors of Giant Cell Arteritis

Some possible risk factors of Giant Cell Arteritis are:

Age – age is strongly associated with the incidence of this condition. Almost all the time, individuals aged 50 and above are affected by this. Individuals aged between 70 -80 years of age are more likely to get affected.

Gender – females are two times more likely to get more affected by this condition.

Demographics – this condition is more common among the white European population.

Underlying Conditions – underlying conditions like polymyalgia rheumatica make you more vulnerable to this disorder.

Family History – family history of giant cell arteritis can put you at greater risk of acquiring it.

Complications of Giant Cell Arteritis:

Untreated giant cell arteritis can lead to many serious complications. These complications can include:

Blindness – vision-related issues due to this condition can lead to permanent vision loss in one or both eyes.

Aortic aneurysm – this is basically a bulge that forms in a weakened blood vessel. Blockage in this vessel can cause it to burst which can lead to life-threatening conditions caused by internal bleeding.

A rare complication of Giant Cell Arteritis is stroke.

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Prevention

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Diagnosis

Treatment of Giant Cell Arteritis | When to Consult a Doctor

This condition should be treated as soon as possible because of its complications. Usually, the treatment begins by first having a temporal artery biopsy. Upon the confirmation of the disease, high doses of corticosteroids are prescribed.

Self-treatment and self-diagnosis cannot cure this disease and can cause more complexities. So, immediately consult a certified rheumatologist if you feel you have symptoms of this disorder.