Giant Cell Arteritis, also known as temporal arteritis, is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the arteries’ lining. It commonly affects the arteries in the head, especially those on the temples. The inflammation obstructs blood flow.

The leading cause of giant cell arteritis is still unknown, but it is considered an autoimmune disease. In this case, the immune system is the one that attacks the lining of the arteries, which affects the blood flow in the head and the brain.

Those who are at risk of having giant cell arteritis are adults. It rarely occurs in those under 50 years of age. The symptoms start to show mostly from the age of 70. Also, women are at a higher risk of about two times more as compared to men.

When giant cell arteritis is left untreated, it may cause serious complications such as blindness.


The usual symptoms of giant cell arteritis include pain and tenderness, especially on the temples. It is often severe and usually affects both sides. Other early symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite.

Due to the inflammation of the arteries, other symptoms may start showing depending on the severity. This include:

  • Headaches that may be severe and persistent
  • Scalp and temples tenderness
  • Double vision
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Dizziness
  • Jaw pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Infrequent chest pain

Other symptoms may include pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and hips. These are common symptoms of another condition called polymyalgia rheumatica, in which half of those diagnosed with giant cell arteritis are also diagnosed with this disease.


The diagnosis is difficult since it shares symptoms common to other diseases. The doctor may need to conduct several examinations to rule out other possible disorders and accurately diagnose the condition to be giant cell arteritis.

The doctor will review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical examination, mainly focused on the temporal arteries. The patient may also be required to undergo laboratory tests such as:

  • Blood tests to determine and measure the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and c-reactive protein.
  • Imaging tests to produce detailed images of the blood flow, blood vessels, and inflammation. It may be through Doppler ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography, or positron emission tomography.

A biopsy may also be performed by taking a small sample of the temporal artery. This is considered as the best way to diagnose giant cell arteritis.


Today, the primary treatment is through high doses of corticosteroids. This will prevent possible blindness and may control the inflammation. Taking corticosteroids may take up to two years or longer, but the treatments will be gradually lowered. The doctor may also prescribe other immune-suppressing drugs.

To help manage the condition and manage the side effects of the prescribed medication, the patient will be recommended to have a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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