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Giant Cell Arteritis

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Giant Cell Arteritis

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), or temporal arteritis, is an inflammatory disease affecting the large blood vessels of the scalp, neck and arms. Inflammation causes a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels, which interrupts blood flow. The disease is commonly associated with polymyalgia rheumatica.

Caucasian women over the age of 50 – most commonly between the ages of 70 and 80 years – have the highest risk of developing giant cell arteritis. Although women are more likely than men to develop GCA, research suggests that men are more likely to suffer potentially blinding eye involvement.

Early symptoms of giant cell arteritis may resemble flu symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite and fever. Symptoms specifically related to the inflamed arteries of the head include:

  • Headaches, often severe
  • Tenderness of the scalp or temples
  • Double vision
  • Temporary or sustained vision loss (like having a curtain pulled partly over the eye)
  • Dizziness or problems with coordination and balance
  • Jaw pain when eating or talking
  • Persistent sore throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Occasional chest pain