Giant Cell Arteritis

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an inflammation of an artery in just about any part of the body. When the artery becomes inflamed, narrowing or sometimes complete blockage of the blood vessel occurs. This narrowing or blockage deprives the surrounding tissues of an adequate amount of blood. If GCA affects the arteries that supply the eyes, blindness can develop suddenly in one or both eyes. On rare occasions strokes may result.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of GCA typically include headaches, pain in the jaw or tongue muscles when eating or talking and tenderness of the scalp over the temples.

 

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of this disorder is not known. Because it almost always occurs in people over the age of 50 (the average age of persons with GCA is about 70), it may be related to the aging process. Genetic factors may also be involved. GCA occurs twice as often in women as in men.

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Diagnosis

A biopsy of an affected blood vessel (usually the temporal artery) is necessary to confirm GCA.

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Treatments

Relieving symptoms and preventing tissue damage are the primary treatment goals with GCA. Prednisone is usually given. Treatment often takes two years or longer.