TEMPORAL ARTERITIS OR GIANT CELL ARTERITIS (GCA)

temporal arteritis

What is Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis?

Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) is a disease almost exclusively seen in patients over 50 whose main feature is inflammation of blood vessels called arteries most often involving the arteries of the head and scalp especially those over the temple. There is an association between Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) and Polymyalgia Rheumatica.

What are the symptoms of Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis?

The most common symptom of Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) is a new, persistent headache, usually involving the area around the temples but can occur anywhere in the head. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, double vision, jaw pain while chewing, or fever.

How is Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis diagnosed?

The classic history is important in raising the clinical suspicion for this condition. Certain Physical Exam findings such as tenderness to palpation over the temporal area is an important finding supporting this diagnosis. Elevated Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) which is a marker of inflammation is also indicative of this condition, but is elevated in many other conditions so one cannot rely on this alone to make the diagnosis. However, the gold standard test for this diagnosis is a Temporal Artery Biopsy.

What treatments are available for Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis?

Initial treatment for Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) involves the use of high-dose Corticosteroids such as Prednisone, typically added dose of 40-60 mg per day. Resolution of headaches and other symptoms shortly after starting this medication is indicative of this diagnosis. Patients need to be weaned off this medication over a one to two-year period. Tocilizumab (Actemra) is a medication that has been approved for the treatment of Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) and can decrease the total amount of Prednisone used.