Giant cell arteritis
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What is Giant cell arteritis?
Giant cell arteritis is a condition where the immune system attacks blood vessels, usually in the head and neck. Inflammation results in blocked vessels and interrupted blood flow. The temporal artery is often involved, and the condition may also be called temporal arteritis.
Damage to the temporal artery can lead to vision loss if left untreated. Caucasian women between 70 and 80 are most likely to develop the disease, whose cause is unknown. It is important to seek treatment quickly to avoid complications. Giant cell arteritis has also been linked to an increased risk of aneurysms.
Symptoms and causes
Symptoms of giant cell arteritis include flu-like symptoms, dizziness, double vision or other vision problems, and tenderness of the head and scalp. Patients may also experience headaches, fever, fatigue, facial and jaw pain, and in severe or untreated cases, vision loss.
Headaches and pain may be centered in one or both temples, and the pain may come and go. This disease mostly affects older adults. The condition is also closely related to polymyalgia rheumatica. As many as half of giant cell arteritis patients also suffer from polymyalgia rheumatica.
To diagnose giant cell arteritis, physicians may utilize blood tests, imaging tests such as ultrasounds or positron emission tomography (PET) scans, or biopsy of the temporal artery.
There is no known cure for giant cell arteritis, although the pain and inflammation can be managed with medication. High doses of corticosteroids are prescribed to reduce swelling and the risk of blindness. These doses can be tapered off after a few weeks. It is also recommended that patients increase their intake of calcium and vitamin D.