Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA or Temporal Arteritis)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

Giant Cell Arteritis Symptoms

Headaches

Headache is defined as a pain arising from the head or upper neck of the body. The pain originates from the tissues and structures that surround the skull or the brain because the brain itself has no nerves that give rise to the sensation of pain (pain fibers). The thin layer of tissue (periosteum) that surrounds bones, muscles that encase the skull, sinuses, eyes, and ears, as well as thin tissues that cover the surface of the brain and spinal cord (meninges), arteries, veins, and nerves, all can become inflamed or irritated and cause headache.

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) facts

  • Giant cell arteritis is a result of inflammation of arteries.
  • Giant cell arteritis can lead to blindness and/or stroke.
  • Giant cell arteritis is detected by a biopsy of an artery.
  • Giant cell arteritis is treated with high-dose cortisone medications.

What is giant cell arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis, also called temporal arteritis or cranial arteritis, is a serious disease characterized by inflammation of the walls of the blood vessels (vasculitis). The vessels affected are the arteries (hence the name "arteritis"). Giant cell arteritis occurs in 10%-15% of patients with polymyalgia rheumatica. The age of affected patients is over 50 years of age, identical to that of polymyalgia rheumatica. The onset of giant cell arteritis may be years before, after, or without accompanying polymyalgia rheumatica. Giant cell arteritis is abbreviated GCA.

What causes giant cell arteritis?

The cause of giant cell arteritis is not known. Recent research is looking into possible infectious causes, and some information suggests a possible relationship to the microbe chlamydia. This will require further studies for verification.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016

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