Temporal Arteritis Symptoms, Prevention And Treatment


The lining of your arteries becomes inflamed when you have giant cell arteritis. The most commonly affected arteries in your head are those near your temples. Due to this, temporal arteritis is another name for giant cell arteritis.

Giant cell arteritis frequently causes headaches, scalp soreness, jaw pain, and vision problems. Without treatment, it can cause blindness.

Giant cell arteritis symptoms are often relieved by quick corticosteroid therapy, which may also stop eyesight loss. Within a few days of starting treatment, you will probably start feeling better. Relapses, however, are frequent even with therapy.

You will need to schedule routine appointments with your doctor so they can monitor you and manage any negative effects of taking corticosteroids.


During giant cell arteritis, the lining of the arteries swells as a result of inflammation. Your blood vessels become more constricted as a result of the swelling, which reduces the amount of blood and, therefore, oxygen and essential nutrients that reach your body's tissues.

Though almost any large or medium-sized artery can become swollen, the arteries in the temples are the ones that do so most frequently. Just in front of your ears, they extend up into your scalp.

Although the exact cause of these inflamed arteries is unknown, it is believed that the immune system's abnormal attacks on artery walls are to blame. Your vulnerability to the illness may be increased by specific genes and environmental factors.

How to check if you have Temporal Arteritis?

See your doctor right away if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, including a new, recurring headache. Starting therapy as soon as possible after receiving a giant cell arteritis diagnosis can frequently help prevent visual loss.

Risk Factors

Your chance of having giant cell arteritis may be impacted by a number of variables, such as:

Age. Only adults, and very rarely those under 50, are affected by giant cell arteritis. Most of those with this ailment begin to exhibit symptoms between the ages of 70 and 80.

Sex. Women are nearly twice as likely as males to have the illness.

Geographical area and race. The majority of white patients with giant cell arteritis are of Scandinavian or Northern European heritage.

Rheumatic polymyalgia. Giant cell arteritis is more likely to occur if you have polymyalgia rheumatic.

Family background. The disease can run in families in some cases.


The signs of giant cell arteritis are head pain and discomfort, which are frequently severe and present in both temples. Headaches might gradually become worse, flare up and disappear, or momentarily go away.

Giant cell arteritis often exhibits the following signs and symptoms:

  • Persistent
  • Excruciating headache that affects your temple region
  • Scalp
  • Soreness
  • Having jaw discomfort when chewing or opening your mouth widely
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Inadvertent weight loss
  • Especially in those with jaw discomfort, visual loss or double vision
  • Sudden, irreversible vision loss in one of your eyes

A similar condition called polymyalgia rheumatica frequently causes pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, or hips. Polymyalgia rheumatica affects around 50% of persons with giant cell arteritis.


High dosages of a corticosteroid medication like prednisone are the mainstay of treatment for giant cell arteritis. Your doctor will probably prescribe medicine even before confirming the diagnosis with a biopsy since prompt therapy is essential to avoid visual loss.

Soon after starting therapy, you will probably start feeling better. Prior to beginning corticosteroid therapy, visual loss makes it unlikely that your vision will improve. The unaffected eye may be able to make up for some of the visual alterations.

One to two years or longer may be required for you to continue taking your medicine. Your doctor may progressively reduce the dosage after the first month until you achieve the lowest corticosteroid dosage required to treat your condition.

During this tapering stage, specific symptoms, notably headaches, may recur. At this stage, many patients also start to experience polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms. Usually, mild dosage increases of corticosteroids can control such outbreaks. Methotrexate (Trexall), an immunosuppressant, may also be recommended by your doctor.

Serious adverse effects from corticosteroids include osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and muscular weakness. Your doctor will likely monitor your bone density to guard against any negative effects and may suggest calcium and vitamin D supplements or other treatments assist in stopping bone loss.

Other Treatments

Giant cell arteritis frequently causes headaches, scalp discomfort, jaw pain, and visio Although prednisone and other corticosteroids are the most common and efficient treatments for temporal arteritis, in some instances, doctors may also explore additional medicines as add-on therapy to assist taper the problems. 

 A steroid-sparing drug or therapy is what is referred to as this additional treatment.

This may be crucial if you experience serious adverse effects from corticosteroids or if you have a predisposition to them, such as diabetes or osteoporosis.

Some chemotherapy drugs, like methotrexate, and immunosuppressant drugs, like tocilizumab (Actemra), which is approved for the treatment of temporal arteritis, are steroid-sparing agents. In certain circumstances, taking aspirin on a regular basis and receiving additional therapies may help slow the rate of eyesight loss and fend against strokes.

Additionally, there are steps that could help lessen the severity of some symptoms as well as the severity of long-term corticosteroid side effects:

  • Lowering your salt consumption and supplementing with calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones
  • Exercising while carrying weight, such as walking, to stop smoking
  • Having routine bone density tests
  • Periodically checking blood sugar

Once you have finished your course of treatment, you will still need to visit your doctor for checkups. This is due to temporal arteritis' propensity to return. Additionally, before making any changes to your treatment plan, make sure to consult your doctor.

Complications of Temporal Arteritis

Serious side effects of giant cell arteritis include:

Blindness. Reduced blood flow to your eyes can suddenly and painlessly impair one or, rarely, both of your eyes' eyesight. Usually, eyesight loss is irreversible.

The aortic aneurysm. An aneurysm is a bulge that develops in a blood vessel that is weak, typically in the aorta, the main artery that runs through the middle of your chest and belly. An aortic aneurysm might rupture and result in internal bleeding that is potentially fatal.

Your doctor may do yearly chest X-rays or other imaging tests, such as ultrasound and CT, to check the health of your aorta because this condition can manifest itself even years after giant cell arteritis has been identified.

Stroke. This is a rare giant cell arteritis complication.

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Page last reviewed: May 15, 2023

Next review due: May 15, 2025

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