Giant cell arteritis


Giant cell arteritis, also referred to as temporal arteritis or Horton’s arteritis, is a blood vessel inflammation. The temporal arteries, or the blood vessels next to the temples, are most frequently affected. The vasculitis which causes temporal arteritis can extend its effects beyond the temporal arteries. It has the potential to involve other blood vessels, including the posterior ciliary arteries, which can result in vision loss. Additionally, this condition can affect larger blood vessels such as the aorta and its branches, leading to significant health complications.

Giant cell arteritis commonly results in headaches, tenderness in the scalp, jaw pain, and problems with vision. Temporal arteritis can lead to the sudden blindness of one or both eyes, aneurysm, or other complications such as stroke or transient ischemic attacks if it is not identified and treated right away.

Giant cell arteritis symptoms are typically relieved by immediate corticosteroid treatment, which may also prevent vision damage. After a few days of treatment, the patient should start to feel better. Relapses are common even after receiving treatment.

To monitor for any side effects from taking corticosteroids, it is recommended to have regular visit with the healthcare provider.


The predominant symptoms of giant cell arteritis often include intense headaches and tenderness, typically affecting both temples. The headaches may progressively worsen, temporarily alleviate, or have an intermittent pattern.

Typically, giant cell arteritis signs and symptoms include:

  • Scalp or temples tenderness
  • Jaw pain when opening the mouth or chewing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Vision problems such as double vision, blurry vision, or transitory (brief) vision loss, may lead to permanent, irreversible vision loss if they are not treated.

A related condition called polymyalgia rheumatica frequently manifests as neck, shoulder, or hip pain and stiffness. Polymyalgia rheumatica affects around 50% of those with giant cell arteritis.

If an individual encounters a new, persistent headache or any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is crucial to promptly seek medical attention. Once giant cell arteritis is diagnosed, initiating treatment without delay can generally help prevent visual impairment.


It is uncertain what causes these arteries to become inflamed, although it is assumed that the immune system is involved in abnormal attacks on the arterial walls. The vulnerability to the conditions may be increased by specific genes and environmental variables.

During giant cell arteritis, the lining of the arteries swells as a result of inflammation. As a result of the swelling, the blood vessels become more constricted and less blood, as well as oxygen and other essential nutrients, can reach the body’s tissues. A wide variety of large or medium-sized arteries might be affected, however inflammation most frequently affects the arteries in the temples. These start just above the ears and extend up into the scalp.

Risk factors

Giant cell arteritis risk can be affected by a number of factors, including:

  • Age: People under 50 are rarely affected by giant cell arteritis. Between the ages of 70 and 80, the majority of those with this condition begin to exhibit signs and symptoms.
  • Sex: Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have the condition.
  • Family history. A medical condition can occasionally run in the family.
  • Race: The majority of white patients with giant cell arteritis are of Scandinavian or Northern European heritage.
  • Other medical condition: Patient is more likely to get giant cell arteritis if they have polymyalgia rheumatica.