Updated 19 May 2015

Giant cell arteritis

Giant cell arteritis is an inflammation of the temporal artery.



Giant cell arteritis (also called temporal cell arteritis) is an inflammation of the temporal artery (which runs over the temple, beside the eye). Giant cell arteritis may occur alone or with other disorders such as Vasculitis.

Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessel system, which includes the veins, arteries and capillaries. Vasculitis may affect blood vessels of any type, size or location, and therefore can cause dysfunction in any organ system, including the central and peripheral nervous systems.

The symptoms of vasculitis depend on which blood vessels are involved and which organs in the body are affected.


Symptoms of this disorder may include stiffness, muscle pain, fever, severe headaches, pain when chewing and tenderness in the temple area. Other symptoms may include anaemia, fatigue, weight loss, shaking, vision loss and sweats.


The prognosis for individuals with vasculitis varies depending on the severity of the disorder. Mild cases of vasculitis are generally not life-threatening, while severe cases (involving major organ systems) may be permanently disabling or fatal.

The prognosis for individuals with giant cell arteritis is generally good. With treatment, most individuals achieve complete remission, however vision loss may be irreversible.


Treatment for vasculitis depends on the severity of the disorder and the individual's general health. Treatment may include cortisone or cytotoxic medication.

Other treatments may include plasmapheresis (the removal and reinfusion of blood plasma), intravenous gammaglobulin and cyclosporin. Some cases of vasculitis may not require treatment.

Treatment for giant cell arteritis and its associated symptoms generally includes corticosteroid therapy. Early detection of giant cell arteritis and immediate treatment are essential to prevent vision loss.

Reviewed by Dr Andrew Rose-Innes, Neurology Division, The Oregon Clinic, Portland Oregon, 2007

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