Temporal Arteritis - Headaches

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: November 2010

Temporal arteritis is also called giant cell arteritis or cranial arteritis. It is a form of vasculitis - inflamed arteries - that affects the temporal arteries, those on the temple, beside the eye.

It typically strikes people over age 50 and the average age of patients is 72. The disorder is rare in people of African descent.

Temporal arteritis is diagnosed with a blood test that can assess the amount of inflammation. In addition, a biopsy is typically used to confirm the diagnosis. The biopsy involves a shallow incision over the artery to remove a segment of the artery. The cut artery is then sewn back together. The portion of the artery is then examined under the microscope.

Cause of temporal arteritis

The cause of this condition isn’t known, but has been linked to severe infections and high doses of antibiotics. Temporal arteritis is also believed to be related to a faulty immune response. Temporal arteritis is inflammation and damage to blood vessels leading to the head, especially the temples.

Treating Temporal Arteritis

When there is inadequate blood flow, cells and tissues can be severely damaged or die. Treatment is designed to cut tissue damage. Doctors prescribe corticosteroids, aspirin or sometimes medications that suppress the immune system.

It is important for this condition to be diagnosed and treated as soon as symptoms surface. If vision has already become impaired, the damage is usually permanent.

Temporal arteritis isn’t usually fatal.

In most cases, patients improve within three days.

Symptoms of temporal arteritis

  • Headaches, throbbing pain on one side or in back of head
  • Fever
  • Vision changes, blurred vision or double vision
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes - which can be permanent
  • Hearing loss
  • Facial pain
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Jaw pain
  • Tongue pain
  • Shoulder and hip pain
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck
  • Muscle aches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Excessive sweating
  • General ill feeling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensitive, tender scalpc
  • Weakness or excessive tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Dry cough, throat pain
  • Bulging, thick, tender artery on one side
  • Confusion or forgetfulness leading to dementia
  • Depression
  • Stroke

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