Temporal arteritis

Temporal arteritis causes inflammation inside some of your arteries. This causes large cells to be developed in the wall of these infected arteries, hence its alternative name Giant Cell Arteritis. If you do have this condition, treatment needs to be started immediately as the outcome could be serious if left untreated.

The symptoms of this condition can be difficult to spot as they could put to a number of other illnesses. Mainly you will feel a headache and in particular tenderness on the sides of your forehead, either both sides or just one. You could also experience general feelings of being unwell. Some people also have pain in their jaw muscles especially when you are chewing food. In extreme circumstances, you may also suffer visual loss. You could also experience: tiredness, night sweats, loss of appetite, depression and weight loss when not trying to diet.

Who Can Be Affected?
This condition itself is uncommon and extremely rare amongst those under the age of 50. In fact the most common group of those affected is females over the age of 60.

Are there complications?
Around 50% of the people that have temporal arteritis will go onto develop a separate condition called polymyalgia rheumatica. This condition itself is just as uncomfortable as temporal arteritis with its own set of symptoms. Symptoms of this condition include tenderness and stiffness of muscles around your shoulders and upper areas. It is caused by the inflammation of the muscles and joints but the reason for this or it’s direct relationship with temporal arteritis is not yet known.

Other Complications
Complications are rare as long as treatment is sought as soon as symptoms are experienced. If you do feel consistently unwell then you should always seek immediate medical advice.

Blindness in one or both eyes can occur of the affected artery becomes so inflamed that the blood supply flowing through these arteries is affected. The arteries that go to the eye are particularly small and so these are usually the ones that are affected. Although this is rare to happen, for those who leave their symptoms untreated as many as 1 in 5 could experience total or partial visual loss.

Anywhere in you body where arteries are can be affected, in extreme causes this could bring on a heart attack, a stroke, damage to nerves or even deafness.

Treatment of this condition should be started as soon as possible in order to avoid any complications. The condition is confirmed by your doctor through a biopsy. If they do suspect that you have temporal arteritis then they usually will not wait for the results of the biopsy but will start treatment immediately. If the biopsy does not confirm the diagnosis, treatment can be discontinued but since time is of the essence, most doctors will begin treatment if they suspect temporal arteritis.

As this condition is caused by the inflammation of arteries the first treatment that is offered usually is a course of steroids, often prednisone. Symptoms usually ease after just a few days as the first few days of steroids that are prescribed as are high as 60mg. After these first few days the amount of steroids is lowered to around 10mg per day. This is not a quick condition to eradicate completely and it could take as many as 3 years to disappear altogether.

As this condition in rare cases can bring on heart attacks and strokes your doctor will often prescribe a low, daily dose of aspirin. This is only a very small amount – around 81 mg daily.

It is possible to successfully treat temporal arteritis however you should not expect a quick fix. If you do experience any of the symptoms you should seek immediate medical advice as untreated they can cause serious complications. However, as long as it is treated you usually won’t experience any complications at all and will be able to go on with life without too much discomfort after treatment has started.

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Last updated on Feb 20th, 2010 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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