Giant Cell Arteritis

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also known as temporal arteritis, is a chronic inflammation of the lining of medium- and large-sized arteries. The cause of giant cell arteritis is unknown. Left untreated it can lead to blindness. Treatment should be initiated as soon as the diagnosis is suspected.

Giant cell arteritis rarely occurs in people below 50 years of age, and it typically begins at around age 70. Women are more likely to develop GCA than men, and Caucasians are affected at a much higher rate than people of other races. If you have polymyalgia rheumatica, you have an increased risk of having GCA as well.

Signs to look for include:

  • Headache, fatigue, and fever
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Jaw pain
  • Weight loss.

The diagnosis of giant cell arteritis is made by blood tests and obtaining a biopsy of the temporal artery which is an outpatient procedure performed with local anesthesia. The condition is treated with steroid (anti-inflammatory) medications. These relieve the symptoms and prevent further loss of vision and other complications of the disease.