Temporal arteritis is a condition in which the temporal arteries,
which supply blood to the head and brain, become inflamed or damaged. It is
also known as cranial arteritis or giant cell arteritis. Although this
condition usually occurs in the temporal arteries, it can occur in almost any
medium to large artery in the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people over
the age of 50 are more likely than younger people to develop the condition.
Women are also more likely than men to have temporal arteritis.
Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, the
condition may be linked to the body’s autoimmune response. Also, excessive
doses of antibiotics and certain severe infections have been linked to temporal
arteritis. There’s no known prevention for the condition. However, once
diagnosed, temporal arteritis can be treated to minimize complications.
If you think that you may have temporal arteritis, you should see
a doctor as soon as possible. Temporal arteritis can cause very serious
complications, but seeking immediate medical attention and treatment can reduce
the risk of developing these complications.
Symptoms of Temporal Arteritis
The symptoms of temporal arteritis can include:
- double vision
- sudden, permanent loss of vision in one eye
- a throbbing headache that’s usually in the
- a loss of appetite
- jaw pain, which sometimes can occur with chewing
- a fever
- unintentional weight loss
- shoulder and hip pain and stiffness
- tenderness in the scalp and temple areas
These symptoms can also occur due to other conditions. You should
call your doctor anytime you’re worried about any symptoms you’re experiencing.
Diagnosis of Temporal Arteritis
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and look at your head to
determine whether there’s any tenderness. They’ll pay special attention to the
arteries in your head. They may also order a blood test. Several blood tests
can be useful in diagnosing temporal arteritis, including the following:
- A hemoglobin test measures the amount of
hemoglobin, or oxygen-carrying protein, in your blood.
- A hematocrit test measures the percentage of your
blood that is made up of red blood cells.
- A liver function test can be done to determine
how well the liver is working.
- An erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test
measures how quickly your red blood cells collect at the bottom of a test tube
over one hour. A high ESR result means that there’s inflammation in your body.
- A C-reactive protein test measures the level of
a protein made by your liver that’s released into your bloodstream after tissue
injury. A high result indicates that there’s inflammation in your body.
Although these tests can be helpful, blood tests alone aren’t
enough for a diagnosis. Usually, your doctor will perform a biopsy of the
artery that they suspect is affected to make a definitive diagnosis. This can
be done as an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia. An ultrasound may
provide an additional clue about whether or not you have temporal arteritis. CT
and MRI scans are often not helpful.
Potential Complications of Temporal Arteritis
Complications can occur. If temporal arteritis isn’t treated, the
following complications can occur:
- inflammation and damage to other blood vessels
in the body
- development of aneurysms, including aortic
- vision loss
- eye muscle weakness
- a stroke
Death can also occur if this condition isn’t treated. Talk with
your doctor about ways to minimize any complications from the condition.
Treatment of Temporal Arteritis
Temporal arteritis cannot be cured. Therefore, the goal of
treatment is to minimize tissue damage that can occur due to inadequate blood
flow caused by the condition.
If temporal arteritis is suspected, treatment should begin
immediately, even if test results haven’t yet confirmed the diagnosis. This is
because if temporal arteritis is allowed to continue untreated it can cause
serious, potentially life-threatening complications. These complications
include stroke, blindness, and aortic aneurysm. An aortic aneurysm can lead to
massive internal bleeding and death.
If this diagnosis is suspected and the results are pending, your
doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids. Corticosteroids can increase your
higher risk of developing certain medical conditions, such as:
- high blood pressure
- muscle weakness
Other potential side effects of the medicines include:
- weight gain
- increased blood sugar levels
- thinning skin
- increased bruising
- decreased immune system function
- difficulty sleeping at night and restlessness
Talk with your doctor about ways to minimize these side effects.
Your doctor may also recommend taking aspirin to treat the
Treatment typically lasts for one to two years. While you’re
undergoing corticosteroid therapy, it’s important that you maintain a regular
checkup schedule with your doctor. They’ll need to monitor your progress, as
well as the way that your body is handling medical treatment. Prolonged use of
corticosteroids can have detrimental effects on your bones and other metabolic
The following measures are generally recommended as part of
- taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement
- quitting smoking
- doing weight-bearing exercise, like walking
- getting regular bone density screenings
- getting occasional blood sugar checks
Once you’ve finished your course of treatment, you’ll still need
to see your doctor for checkups because temporal arteritis can recur.
What Is the Outlook for People with Temporal Arteritis?
Your outlook for temporal arteritis will depend on how
quickly you’re diagnosed and start treatment. Untreated temporal arteritis can
cause serious damage to the blood vessels in your body. Call your doctor if you
notice new symptoms. This will make it more likely that you’ll be diagnosed
with a condition when it’s in the early stages.