Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a conditionin whichmediumand large arteries, usually in the head and neck, become inflamed.

It's sometimes called temporal arteritis because the arteries around the temples are usually affected.

The conditionis one of the most common types of inflammation of the arteries and veins (vasculitis).

Symptoms of giant cell arteritis include:

  • aching and soreness in and aroundthe temples
  • jaw muscle pain while eating
  • vision loss

These can often develop suddenly, but may follow vague symptoms such as weight loss and prolonged tiredness.

Without prompt treatment it can lead to permanent Visual impairment .

Contact your GP as soon as possibleif you suddenly develop a severe headache , jaw pain when eating, blurred or double vision , or a sore scalp. If this isn't possible, contact your out-of-hours service or call NHS 111 .

Diagnosis and treatment

Treatment for giant cell arteritis will usually begin as soon as possible. This may mean that treatment begins before a diagnosis is confirmed.

An examination of your symptoms and blood tests may be carried out if it's thought you have giant cell arteritis.

The most effective way to diagnose the condition is to remove some tissue from your temporal artery so it can be studied. This procedure is known as a temporal artery biopsy .

The main treatment for giant cell arteritis is steroid medication (corticosteroids) . Most people need to take steroids on a long-term basis to prevent their symptoms returning. A two-year course of corticosteroids is usually required.

Other types of medication, such as low-dose aspirin andmedication that suppresses the immune system (immunosuppressants), may also be used to reduce the risk of the condition recurring and complications developing.

These include permanent sight loss , abdominal aortic aneurysm , and cardiovascular disease .

It's also seven times more common in white people than in black people.

Information about you

If you havegiant cell arteritis, your clinical team will pass information about you on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).

This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the register .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016