What is it?
Giant cell arteritis, also called ACG or temporal arteritis, is a disorder in which certain arteries (blood vessels) in the body become inflamed. It frequently occurs in conjunction with polymyalgia rheumatica , PMR. About 10 to 15% of people with PMR also have GCA, and almost 50% of patients with GCA also have PMR.
What are the symptoms?
Giant cell arteritis commonly affects the arteries in the temple area (temporal region) on both sides of the head. It also involves arteries of the head, neck, arms and occasionally other major arteries of the body. The inflammation causes the arteries to narrow or block, so they let little blood go through. Symptoms of GCA that indicate inflammation or blockage of the arteries are:
Giant cell arteritis can be difficult to diagnose in some people who never have headaches or scalp pain. Instead of these, these people may present more ambiguous symptoms such as flu, fever, fatigue, weight loss and anemia.
The loss of vision may be temporary or permanent. Early diagnosis and treatment with glucocorticoids has helped reduce the frequency of permanent blindness due to GCA.
Important: If you have PMR and start having vision problems, call your doctor immediately. Also tell them if you have any other symptoms of GCA. Early diagnosis and treatment of giant cell arteritis can help you prevent serious problems such as blindness.
How is it diagnosed?
To determine if you have ACG, your doctor will need to remove a sample of the temporal artery above and in front of your ear. The artery will be taken from the temple by a small incision. You will not need to sleep for it, but you will receive medicine to anesthetize the area. The piece of artery will be examined under the microscope. If you have GCA, the inflammation will manifest in the walls of the artery. Rarely, the disease can not be detected by biopsy. The doctor will make a final diagnosis based on other symptoms and signs.
If you have GCA, you may have a higher sedimentation coefficient than normal, indicating inflammation in the body. Other tests may show anemia, elevated platelet count, and abnormal liver function results.
Corticosteroid medications are used to treat this condition. Higher doses are used to treat GCA than for PMR (usually 40-60 mg / day in one or two daily doses). These doses will put you at higher risk of side effects. To prevent osteoporosis, which can result from the ingestion of glucocorticoids, it is important that you take calcium and vitamin D supplements .
Plan to be in treatment for many months to several years, although your doctor will probably reduce your dose over time, once your symptoms are under control.
Both PMR and giant cell arteritis can last one to two years, but this varies from person to person. These conditions rarely recur if you have been well for some time.
The research is aimed at finding treatments focused on controlling inflammation with lower doses of corticosteroids. Current treatment allows most people with these diseases to lead active and productive lives. Most of them can take smaller doses of drugs after being treated for a while. Many patients may eventually stop taking the drugs after one or two years, but the threat of reoccurrence requires constant communication between you and your doctor.