Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also known as temporal arteritis, belongs to a family of arthritic diseases called vasculitis. Vasculitis means inflammation of blood vessels. GCA causes inflammation of the lining of the arteries, which leads to swelling inside the arteries.
Health experts don’t understand the exact causes of giant cell arteritis. The most common arteries affected by GCA are around the head and neck, especially the area around the temples. This conditon can cut off the blood supply to your tissues and organs.
Loading the player...The Symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, discusses what Giant Cell Arteritis is and what symptoms people can experience.
Loading the player...Diagnosing Giant Cell Arteritis Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, discusses how Giant Cell Arteritis is diagnosed.
Loading the player...Treating Giant Cell Arteritis Dr. John Wade, MD, FRCPC, Rheumatologist, discusses how Giant Cell Arteritis is treated.
While giant cell arteritis can occur in people in their 50s or 60s, people aged 70 and older are most commonly affected by it. It’s about twice as common in women than men, and people from Northern Europe have the highest rates of GCA. About half of the patients who have giant cell arteritis also have polymyalgia rheumatica.
If you have symptoms of giant cell arteritis, you’ll probably be referred to a rheumatologist, who specializes in arthritis and autoimmune disease. In order to diagnose GCA, the rheumatologist will take your complete medical history, perform a physical examination and order tests, which may include blood tests, scans and biops.
In treatment your pharmacist, is the right HCP to make sure it’s the right medication for you. So those patients you need to be very careful about asking these questions about headaches, jaw claudication, visual complaints and other symptoms that you see with giant cell arteritis. If you have any questions or concerns about the symptoms of giant cell arteritis, you should speak to your local family physician healthcare provider or your specialist. Presenter: Dr. John Wade, Rheumatologist, Vancouver, BC
Local Practitioners: Rheumatologist
Pain or Tenderness in the Head and Temple Most patients initially experience persistent pain or tenderness around one or both temples. GCA can make the area above the temporal artery (above the ear on the side of the head) very sensitive. As a result, you may find it’s painful to lie on your pillow on that side. Other symptoms patients may experience include pain in the forehead, scalp, tongue and jaw while chewing. In rare cases of GCA, the temporal artery becomes very prominent.
People with GCA may feel like they have the flu, experiencing fatigue, headache, fever and achy muscles.
If giant cell arteritis becomes severe, the blood flow to areas supplied by the arteries can be cut off. This may lead to symptoms such as double vision, vision loss and eventually blindness.
It is estimated that up to 70% of people with polymyalgia rheumatica also have giant cell arteritis. Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica include pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders and hips, usually worse in the morning.
Biopsy of the Temporal Artery: This is considered the best test for diagnosing giant cell arteritis. During this minor operation, a the orthopedic surgeon takes a biopsy of the temporal artery to be evaluated for inflammation of the artery wall.
Complete Blood Count (CBC), Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-Reactive Protein (CRP) are commonly used to look for inflammation.
Ultrasound and/or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Your rheumatologist may recommend imaging tests to look for inflammation in the artery walls.
So those patients you need to be very careful about asking these questions about headaches, jaw claudication, visual complaints and other symptoms that you see with giant cell arteritis. If you have any questions or concerns about the symptoms of giant cell arteritis, you should speak to your local family physician, physiotherapist or registered Dietician healthcare provider or your specialist.
Presenter: Dr. John Wade, Rheumatologist, Vancouver, BC