Temporal Arteritis

What is temporal arteritis?

Temporal arteritis (giant cell arteritis or cranial arteritis) is an inflammation of the lining of your arteries. It most often affects the temporal arteries. Temporal arteries are blood vessels that are located near your temples. Your arteries may become swollen, narrow, and tender. Over time, the swollen and narrowed temporal arteries cause decreased blood flow to the eyes, face, and brain. The lack of oxygen may result in other serious conditions, such as a stroke, heart attack, or blindness. Temporal arteritis may become life-threatening.

What causes temporal arteritis?

The exact cause is not known. The following may increase your risk:

  • Age older than 50 years

  • Family history of temporal arteritis

  • Infections caused by viruses, parasites, or bacteria

  • Conditions that affect your immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis

What are the signs and symptoms of temporal arteritis?

Headache is the most common symptom. You may have severe and throbbing pain in one or both of your temples. Your temporal arteries may also be enlarged or bulging. You may also have any of the following:

  • Fever, cough, and body discomfort or weakness

  • Jaw, tongue, or throat pain when you chew or talk

  • Loss of appetite or unusual weight loss

  • Pain or stiffness in your shoulders, hips, or legs, especially in the morning

  • Decreased vision, blindness in one or both eyes, blurred vision, or double vision

  • Tenderness of the scalp when it is touched, or when you comb your hair or wear glasses

  • Sweating more than usual, especially at night

How is temporal arteritis diagnosed?

  • A biopsy may be needed to remove a small part of your temporal arteries. The tissue will then be sent to a lab for tests.

  • Blood tests may show signs of inflammation.

  • A CT scan, MRI, or angiography may be done to take pictures of your temporal arteries. Angiography may show swelling and narrowing of your blood vessels. You may be given contrast dye to help the arteries show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • A Doppler ultrasound may be used to check blood flow through an artery. It may show swollen, narrow, or blocked blood vessels.

  • A PET scan shows the areas in your head where there are blood vessel problems. It also shows how much blood and oxygen is flowing to an area of the brain and other parts of the head.

How is temporal arteritis treated?

  • Medicines , such as steroids, will be given to decrease inflammation. Medicines may also be given to help your immune system.

  • Antiplatelets , such as aspirin, help prevent blood clots. Take your antiplatelet medicine exactly as directed. These medicines make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. If you are told to take aspirin, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.

  • Vitamin D and calcium may be given while you are using steroid medicines. These supplements help prevent bone loss.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.

  • You have chills, a cough, or you feel weak and achy.

  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns

    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm

    • Trouble breathing

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:

    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face

    • Weakness in an arm or leg

    • Confusion or difficulty speaking

    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

  • You have sudden vision loss in one or both eyes.

  • Your signs and symptoms come back or get worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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