Our expert says:
From what you have described, there is a chance that you have temporal arteritis – but most people who experience this throbbing of the temporal artery do not have arteritis.
The important thing though is to make sure, because although temporal arteritis can be treated, left untreated it can have serious consequences, such as blindness. Temporal arteritis usually occurs in people over the age of 50.
The first thing that must be done is to have a blood test called an Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR). Depending on the result, one may have to do a biopsy – that is, cut out a specimen of the artery.
In the majority of cases, the ESR will be negative, and you then have to be examined by someone with special training and knowledge of the scalp arteries, so that the underlying cause can be diagnosed. To get to the root of the problem, you will also need what is called a “multidisciplinary assessment”. There are so many different structures in the head and neck, all of which can be involved in this process, that no single specialist can have all the knowledge necessary to make a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis. For instance, a neurologist will examine the brain and nervous system, a physiotherapist will look at the muscles, a dentist will examine the teeth etc. For this reason, the “multidisciplinary assessment” combines and integrates the expertise of different specialists who would normally treat patients in isolation, into a single more comprehensive body of knowledge. This assessment must include a thorough examination of the head and neck muscles to determine the presence of abnormal tension (which can cause the type of arterialm problem that you have). This enables the different members of the team to provide a co-ordinated treatment plan, so that all the contributing factors are addressed.
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This information has been supplied and checked by the multidisciplinary team of specialists at The Headache Clinic, in association with The International Headache Society and the South African Institute of Headache and Migraine Science. For consultation with these specialists, call The Headache Clinic (Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg) on 0861 678 911.
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