Giant Cell Arteritis or temporal arteritis is inflammation and damage to blood vessels that supply the head area, particularly the large or medium arteries that branch from the neck and supply the temporal area. Giant cell arteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the arteries — the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Giant cell arteritis frequently causes headaches, jaw pain, and blurred or double vision. Other symptoms include pain and tenderness over the temples, double vision or visual loss, dizziness, and problems with coordination and balance. Blindness and, less often, stroke are the most serious complications of giant cell arteritis.
Giant cell arteritis is the most common form of vasculitis that occurs in adults. Almost all patients who develop giant cell arteritis are over the age of 50. The exact cause of giant cell arteritis is not known, however aging has something to do with the disease. It is also known that the body’s immune system attacks and inflames the arteries.
Prompt treatment of giant cell arteritis is critical in order to prevent permanent tissue damage and loss of vision. Corticosteroid medications usually relieve symptoms of giant cell arteritis and may prevent loss of vision. When properly treated, giant cell arteritis rarely comes back.