Temporal arteritis also called as giant cell arteritis is swelling of inner lining of the arteries that carry oxygenated blood. Arteries are blood vessels that carry pure (oxygen rich) blood from the heart to other parts of the body. This disorder largely involves thickening of arteries in your head and your temples. Hence it is also known as cranial arteritis. It causes severe headache, jaw pain and blurred vision. Temporal arteritis can be treated in time by corticosteroid drugs. Loss of vision can be avoided if the treatment is given without delay. Since the disease involves formation of abnormally large sized cells within the lining of arteries it is called giant cell arteritis.
Severe headache and tenderness on the temples are the common symptom of temporal arteritis. Signs may vary depending on the extent of inflammation of the arteries and which part of the body it has affected. Tenderness can be felt on the scalp for many people. It becomes difficult to comb the hair and to lay your head even on the pillow. Pain is felt either on both the temples or on one side.
Some people have pain in the jaw muscles making it difficult to eat or swallow. The jaw pain tends to subside when the person is resting the jaw muscles. One out of every 5 people with this disease will get their vision affected. Loss of vision will be permanent or temporary. Visual disturbance is quite common for all people affected with temporal arteritis. Double vision (called diplopia) can occur on one eye and if left untreated can proceed to affect other eye also. There can be sudden permanent loss of vision on one eye.
In addition, there may be symptoms like fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, loss of weight and depression. Polymyalgia rheumatica is the medical term related to describe the condition of pain and stiffness in the upper arms and shoulder region. This happens due to inflammation of the muscles inside. You should never delay in visiting your doctor if you have severe headache and blurred vision to prevent blindness.
Temporal arteritis is caused by inflammation of the arteries cells in your head and jaw muscles. What exactly causes swelling of arteries is not known. Very often inflammation occurs on the arteries located in front of your ears and some of them will also cause swelling of arteries in the scalp region.
Who are at risk?
Temporal arteritis occurs only for old-age people who are above 65 years. For reasons unknown, this disorder occurs more in women than men. People who suffer from polymyalgia rheumatica problem are likely to get temporal arteritis.
In many cases temporal arteritis can cause total blindness due to reduction of blood flow to the eyes causing paralysis in the eyes or sudden vision loss. This type of blindness cannot be cured causing permanent loss of vision. Individuals with this problem are likely to get aortic aneurysm (weakening of blood vessel in the aorta) which is serious and life threatening condition. If sudden blood clot occurs in the artery of the major blood vessel of the heart, it can cause stroke/cardiac arrest. However this is a rare phenomenon.
Temporal arteritis cannot be diagnosed easily since many of its symptoms resemble common conditions. Your doctor will collect medical history after completing physical examination. He would check for tender arteries and reduction of pulse rate giving special attention to temporal region. Blood tests will be done for checking the sedimentation rate of erythrocyte. CRP test is also done and positive result indicates the presence of inflammation of arteries.
He may do skin biopsy from the temporal artery region for testing in the laboratory to check whether there is inflammation. For some patients imaging tests like MRI is done for ruling out anomalies in your head. Positron Emission Tomography test can be done for detecting areas of inflammation in the blood vessels.
Immediate treatment is to be given for temporal arteritis and hence your doctor will start prescribing steroids if he suspects of the problem, without waiting for the result. Vision loss becomes inevitable if the inflammation continues till your eyes and hence fast treatment is necessary.
The patient will feel better after taking medications but he/she should continue to take the drugs as prescribed by the doctor. For some cases, the drugs are to be taken for 2 years or even more. The dosage of steroid will be reduced after few months after measuring the sedimentation rate. All the symptoms and discomfort would have gone within a week. Corticosteroids can produce undesirable side effects like glaucoma, osteoporosis, muscular weakness, cataracts, weight gain, high blood pressure, thinning of skin, mood changes and weakened immunity.
Since this problem occurs often in old people your doctor will monitor bone density closely and prescribe supplementary medications for preventing bone loss. Blood pressure should also be kept under control by changing the diet and restricting salt intake. For some patients, aspirin is given in low doses (75-100 mg per day) to prevent cardiac arrest and stroke. This drug can also prevent vision loss. To prevent acidity and stomach ulcer, proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole or lansoprazole is suggested. Remember that you should not take anti-inflammatory drugs once you are taking steroids since it can cause stomach ulcer.
Pictures of Temporal Arteritis :
Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Temporal Arteritis
Home Remedies :
Once you are diagnosed with temporal arteritis you should start taking steroids daily. Eat a balanced diet rich in proteins and calcium. You should include minimum 1000 mg of calcium each day in your diet to avoid thinning of bones. Monitor your blood sugar level and blood pressure regularly. Practice exercise regularly to prevent getting diabetes and blood pressure. It would also improve your mood changes and create a sense of well-being.
You cannot prevent temporal arteritis but you can always watch your health regularly once you have crossed 60 years. Healthy diet and regular aerobics can help you to postpone this problem.