What Is Arteritis?
Arteritis, also known as temporal or giant cell arteritis, is a condition that causes inflammation of the arteries in the head. Frequently, the affected arteries are inside the temple, hence why one of the most common initial symptoms is a headache.
Arteritis almost always presents in individuals age 50 or older and is most likely to affect those of northern European ancestry. Though its cause is largely unknown, researchers suspect arteritis can be attributed to the following:
- Having polymyalgia rheumatica, another inflammatory disorder
- Immune system deficiency
- Viral or bacterial infection
While headache is the most common symptom of arteritis, the condition presents differently in each case, potentially exhibiting the following:
- Common cold or flu — Some symptoms mimic benign conditions, such as fever, general sick feelings, coughing or joint stiffness.
- Headache — Arteritis-related headaches typically present as a throbbing ache on a single side or back of the head.
- Other pains — Many experience jaw pain, arm pain following use of the limb, pain and stiffness in the neck or hips, and general muscle aches.
- Tenderness — Touching the scalp causes discomfort or pain.
- Vision problems — When vision problems arise, they include blindness in one or both eyes or blurred or double vision, and the symptoms may onset immediately.
Left untreated, arteritis can lead to blindness, aneurysm or stroke. If treated properly and early, arteritis can be cured within a year or two. Typical treatment includes:
- Corticosteroids — Used to reduce arterial inflammation, a high dose is prescribed until symptoms subside, which is usually within a month. Over time, the dose is tapered off until the medical therapy is complete.
- Other medication — In some cases, immunosuppressive medicines may be used to complement corticosteroid use.
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