Giant Cell Arteritis is the inflammation of the arteries’ linings. This illness mostly affects the arteries of the head particularly the temples. Because of this, giant cell arteritis is sometimes called temporal arteritis.
Symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis
The most common symptoms of giant cell arteritis, are headaches and tenderness. These headaches and tenderness are most often characterized as severe. The headaches can subside, worsen and even come and go in some patients. Giant Cell Arteritis has other symptoms as well such as:
- Head pain in and around the temple area
- Tenderness of the scalp
- Pain in the jaw especially when opening and closing the jaws wide
- Fever and fatigue
- Double vision or in some cases, loss of vision
- The sudden onset of permanent loss of eyesight in one (1) eye
Polymyalgia Rhematica is a related symptom to Giant Cell Arteritis. It has symptoms that result in stiffness of the neck and pain in the shoulders and hips. Around fifty (50%) of patients with Giant Cell Arteritis Are are usually diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rhematica.
Causes of Giant Cell Arteritis
A number of factors can contribute in the development of Giant cell arteritis in patients. This health condition is the result of inflamed arteries resulting in swollen blood vessels, narrow passages for blood circulation and reduced oxygen and nutrients for vital organs. Inflamed arteries can happen to any of the body’s numerous arteries but the ones commonly affected are the arteries in and around the temple. These arteries cover the front of your eyes and up to the scalp.
The exact cause of this narrowing and swelling of arteries is not directly known yet but experts believe that this is may be caused by the immune system abnormally attacking the artery walls of the body. Certain environmental factors and genetic dispositions may cause the said abnormal activity of the body’s immune system.
Risk Factors of Giant Cell Arteritis
Several variables have been identified as major risk factors for Giant Cell Arteritis. Listed below are some these risk factors:
- Age:Age is an important variable in terms of Giant Cell Arteritis. It has been observed that only adults are afflicted with the said condition and that most cases happen to those who are aged above 50 years old.
- Sex: A person’s biological sex can determine the likelihood of developing Giant Cell Arteritis. Women are twice as likely to develop Giant Cell Arteritis compared to men.
- Geographic Region and Race: Those living Northern Europe or of Scandinavian Descent have are at a higher risk of developing Giant Cell Arteritis
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica: Giant Cell Arteritis is more likely to develop in people with Polymyalgia Rheumatica.
- Genes: Genetics or Family History can also play a role in increasing the risk factor of Giant Cell Arteritis. Individuals with a family history of Giant Cell Arteritis have a higher risk of developing the said health condition compared to those whose families have none.
Complications of Giant Cell Arteritis
If left untreated or if during serious complications, Giant Cell Arteritis can cause the following health conditions:
- Blindness: The reduced blood flow to vital organs due to the swelling and narrowing of arteries caused by Giant Cell Arteritis can lead to loss of vision in one (1) eye or on rare occasions, both eyes.
- Aortic Aneurysm: An aneurysm occurs when a large bulge forms in a weakened or swollen artery which may, in turn, burst or damage the said artery. This causes life-threatening internal bleeding and other health concerns. A medical professional may recommend an annual chest x-ray for an aortic aneurysm. This is to monitor the aorta and CT scans to make sure that an identified aneurysm is monitored and kept in check.
- Stroke: Stroke is an uncommon complication of Giant Cell Arteritis, but it is one of the most dangerous. It may lead to other detrimental health conditions and ultimately death.
How to Diagnose Giant Cell Arteritis
Giant Cell Arteritis may be difficult to diagnose at its early stages. The condition may resemble other illnesses in terms of patient symptoms. As such, medical practitioners will usually rule out other health conditions before diagnosing the health condition as Giant Cell Arteritis.
Diagnosing Giant Cell Arteritis usually requires the conduct of a physical exam by a physician, especially checking the temples to check for tenderness and pain accompanied by a reduced pulse. Medical professionals may also recommend other tests aside from this physical exam. Blood tests also help diagnose Giant Cell Arteritis. The Erythrocyte sedimentation rate blood test, sometimes called the sed rate, can check how fast red blood cells fall to the bottom of a tube. Red blood cells that quickly drop to the bottom may indicate some form of inflammation. On the other hand, the C-reactive protein blood test (CR-P) can help look at the substances excreted by the liver during bouts of body inflammation.
Certain imaging tests can also help in the diagnosis of Giant Cell Arteritis. The Doppler Ultrasound can check the image of blood flowing through veins and arteries by using sound waves. A Magnetic Resonance Angiography or MRA may also be utilized to check for Giant Cell Arteritis which uses some form of contrast material similar to the MRI. On the other hand, doctors usually recommend positron emission tomography (PET) if they suspect that the Gian Cell Arteritis is present in large arteries. This kind of scan can highlight inflamed areas and vessels through radiation.
Treatment and Lifestyle Home Remedies
Giant Cell Arteritis is usually treated with medication such as a corticosteroid drug. The treatment time frame can range from one (1) to two (2) years or even longer. However, There are some lifestyle and home remedies patients with Giant Cell Arteritis can do to help alleviate and address the symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis. These include eating a healthy diet, regularly exercising and undergoing regular checkups and monitoring. The combination of both treatment and lifestyle changes can greatly improve the chances of fighting the adverse health effects of Giant Cell Arteritis.