Giant cell Arteritis is a neurological condition where the temporal arteries become inflamed. These arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the brain and heart. Although this condition occurs in the temporal arteries, but almost any artery in the body can be affected by this disease. Giant cell Arteritis or Temporal Arteritis affects nearly one-quarter million people in the US only. If left untreated, this disorder can lead to serious problems and can even cause a person’s death. If you think that you are suffering from giant cell arteritis, it is important to visit the doctor as soon as possible. Seeking immediate medical attention can reduce the complications. So if you have been diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, make sure you reach out to an experienced neurologist at the earliest.
Giant cell Arteritis Causes
In this condition, the lining of the arteries become inflamed and swell up. The swelled artery cause narrowing of the blood vessel thus reducing the amount of blood flow. This ultimately leads to a reduction in the amount of oxygen and important nutrients that travel to the body tissue. While the main cause of the inflamed arteries is not known, certain genes and their variations are known to give birth to this condition.
Giant cell Arteritis Symptoms
Temporal arteritis comes with a number of symptoms that are specific to this disease. Some of the symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite.
- Permanent Loss of Vision in One Eye.
- Weakness and Fatigue.
- Jaw Pain that Occurs in Chewing Food.
- Unintentional Weight Loss.
- Tenderness on Temple Area.
- Throbbing Headache.
- Double Vision.
Giant cell Arteritis Diagnosis
The neurologist will perform a number of tests to confirm where the tenderness in the head actually lies. Special attention is paid to the arteries in the head. You may be required to undergo several blood tests including the following tests:
- Hematocrit test: This test measure the blood percentage made up of red blood cells.
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate Test: The ESR test measures the rate at which the RBC’s collect at the bottom of the test tube. This test helps the doctor know whether there is an inflammation in the body or not!
- Liver Function Test: This test is done to determine the working of the liver.
- C – reactive protein Test: This test measures protein level made by the liver and released into your blood stream. Inflammation in the body is indicated by high protein level.
While these tests are really helpful in determining the disease, we cannot rely on a blood test alone. The neurologist will perform different tests to make a definitive diagnosis. An ultrasound scan, MRI or CT scan may not always come out to be helpful.
Risk Factors Attached
There are several risk factors that lead to the development of this neurological disorder. Some of them are:
- Sex: As compared to the male counterpart, women are more likely to develop this disorder.
- Age: This disorder rarely affects people who are under the age of 50. Warning signs are first seen in people after they attain the age of 60 years.
- Polymyalgia rheumatic: Having polymyalgia rheumatic increase your risk of attaining this disorder.
- Genetics: There have been certain incidences of this condition that proves that it runs in a family.
Giant cell arteritis Complications
If you are suffering from giant cell arteritis, you might experience the following complication at one point of time or the other.
- Aortic aneurysm: This complication can even occur in a person years after giant cell arteritis has been initially diagnosed.
- Blindness: Low blood flow to the eyes can create different problems such as painless vision loss, sudden loss of vision or more! Loss of vision in such situations is generally permanent.
- Stroke: This is one of the most uncommon complications of giant cell arteritis.
Giant cell Arteritis Treatment
Giant cell arteritis is a non-curable disease however the main motive behind the treatment of giant cell arteritis is to minimize tissue damage. Therefore, the treatment should begin as soon as the condition is suspected. Your doctor may ask a few questions to correctly diagnose the problem and in turn, you can even ask him few questions to clear your doubts. If the result is still pending, the doctor can prescribe few oral corticosteroids to prevent further spreading of the disease. Make sure you visit your doctor as soon as you feel that you are suffering from giant cell arteritis. As a part of the treatment, you should:
- Get Your Blood Sugar Checked.
- Do Weight Bearing Exercises.
- Quit Smoking.
- Get Bone Density Screening Done at Regular Interval.
- Take Calcium and Vitamin D Supplement.
FAQ about Giant cell arteritis
Is giant cell arteritis a serious condition?
In a person who suffers from giant cell arteritis, signs can develop gradually over several weeks or months, causing lots of health issues. However, some individuals may experience the sudden and quick onset of the condition that provokes more severe and acute symptoms. As soon as your well-being begins to deteriorate and you have noticed the following alarming symptoms, it is crucial to immediately schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable doctor:
- fever (usually mild);
- fatigue, extreme exhaustion, a lack of energy, and poor performance levels;
- a general feeling of discomfort, frequent headaches, and malaise;
- unexplained weight loss;
- tenderness of the scalp;
- troubles with vision;
- sudden sweating without obvious reasons.
Painful sensations in the neck and shoulder and inability to move are also possible. Thus, receiving timely assistance, medical advice, and comprehensive care to fight the disorder can be life-saving and is essential to maintain health since unmanageable and untreated inflammation of arteries can lead to terrible complications and incurable consequences, such as blindness, irreversibly affecting arteries that are responsible for supplying blood to the head.
How long can you live with giant cell arteritis?
Life expectancy after diagnosis is dependent on age, gender, as well as on a proficiently and properly created treatment strategy offered by a qualified doctor. Moreover, there are triggers that can worsen the condition and measures that can help you to improve symptoms and strengthen health, combating headache, soreness in the area of the temporal arteries, fatigue, etc. in a more capable way. Thus, when the disorder is detected and managed in the early stages of occurrence, the prognosis for such a patient is usually positive, as it is possible to avoid blindness. However, the risk of death in some patients can be higher than in others. The main reasons for fatal outcomes are stroke or aortic dissection.
Is giant cell arteritis life-threatening?
The most common risk factor for giant cell arteritis is aging. Thus, older individuals may suffer due to the condition more often. Other factors are gender and race. Inflammation that affects and damages the arteries must be competently handled, as it can provoke lots of troubles and lead to total vision loss and even heart issues. The condition is also associated with possible fatal outcomes and death. How do you know you have GCA and it’s time to visit a neurologist who is capable of accurate diagnosis and designing an efficient treatment scheme? Here are the most common signs:
- frequent and severe headaches;
- general weakness;
- sometimes burning sensations and numbness;
- pain and tingling in the facial area;
- tiredness and troubles with sleep;
- muscle pain.
Arteries, narrowing during the condition, can impair blood flow to your eyes. Thus, a patient may also experience cloudy vision, eye pain and soreness, blurred vision, and inability to see clearly. The problems with your eyes are indicative of GCA and require a smart medical approach.
Can giant cell arteritis go away on its own?
Suffering from GCA, urgent treatment is imperative, as it won’t go away. Moreover, there isn’t a universal cure for the illness. However, with the right curing plan that consists of drug therapy, it is possible to minimize damage, stop progression, and alleviate symptoms. Prevention of loss of your vision is the top objective, so a doctor can prescribe you medications even before confirmation of the diagnosis.
If you are in the risk group and have a high chance of GCA, there are preventive measures that can have positive effects, so your doctor can suggest you a set of physical exercises, a proper diet full of vitamins, adjustment of lifestyle, and poor habits elimination. But as soon as the disease is diagnosed, it is impossible to reverse it, and a well-developed plan for eliminating complications is vital.