Temporal Arteritis

  • Temporal arteritis causes pain and swelling in the arteries of the head and neck. There is no clear cause or cure, but timely medical treatment can help prevent serious complications.
  • This disease is a type of vasculitis, causing inflammation of the blood vessels that can make it difficult to pass a sufficient amount of blood. It may be an autoimmune disease. Fortunately, there are natural ways for you to manage your symptoms of temporal arteritis in addition to medications.
  • Temporal arteritis is an inflammation of the arteries of the head and neck. In most cases, the arteries that cross the temples are affected, hence the name. This condition is also known as giant cell arteritis (GCA), Horton’s disease, and cranial arteritis. In some cases, the middle and large arteries of the shoulders, arms and other parts of the body are also affected.
  • This condition causes swelling and damage to the blood vessels, making it difficult for blood to flow to the brain and other parts of the body. This can cause serious health problems, such as blindness and stroke.
  • The diagnosis of temporal arteritis should not be made alone because it has the same symptoms as many other conditions. You should consult a health care professional if you have symptoms of temporal arteritis.
  • Fortunately, some tests can help to distinguish between this disease and many problems that cause similar symptoms, such as migraines. You can expect a physical examination, blood tests, an ultrasound and a temporal artery biopsy to get a diagnosis. MRI can also detect temporal arteritis. (1)

Signs and symptoms of temporal arteritis
The symptoms of temporal arteritis may vary from person to person. In most cases, however, the condition causes some of the following symptoms:

  • Sensitivity or pain in the scalp, temples or neck
  • Heat or swelling of the scalp, temples or neck
  • Headache in the temples or at the back of the head
  • Changes in vision, such as double vision or complete loss of vision
  • Symptoms similar to those of the flu, such as loss of appetite, feeling tired or weak, and fever.
  • Dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Pain in the jaw or tongue, especially when chewing or opening in width
  • Pain or stiffness in the shoulders, neck or hips – these may actually be symptoms of rheumatic polymyalgia, which affects about half of people with temporal arteritis.
  • Causes and risk factors of temporal arteritis
  • The exact cause of temporal arteritis is unknown. It may be related to the health of the body’s immune system. In rare cases, it has been linked to some serious infections or high doses of antibiotics. (2)

Risk factors for temporal arteritis include:

  • To be 50 years old or older
  • Be a woman
  • Have a low body mass index (BMI)
  • Start menopause before the age of 43
  • Having a rheumatic polymyalgia
  • Being of North European or Scandinavian origin
  • Have a family history of affection
  • Smoking or being an ex-smoker
  • Conventional treatment of temporal arteritis
  • Once a doctor suspects temporal arteritis, you will probably be given a high dose of steroids. After that, you will be given a lower dose of steroids that you can take for months to a year or more, until your symptoms disappear. This helps to fight inflammation and can prevent further damage to your blood vessels.
  • You must continue to take steroids as long as your health care provider says, because the drug helps prevent serious complications such as vision loss, stroke and death. Once your symptoms are gone, your dose can be decreased gradually. In some people, the disease does not reappear. Others experience symptoms when they stop taking the drug and need to resume treatment.
  • Depending on your general health or the type of steroids you take, you may also be prescribed medications:
  • Medications … to suppress your immune system
  • Aspirin … to thin your blood and allow it to pass more easily through your narrowed arteries.
  • Osteoporosis treatments … to combat the side effects of certain drugs against temporal arteritis.
  • A proton pump inhibitor … to combat the gastrointestinal side effects of aspirin or similar drugs.

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