Temporal arteritis: How does it affect my eyes?

Medically reviewed by Sharon Copeland, Eye Health Advisor, Ophthalmologist and Eye Surgeon at Feel Good Contacts.

Temporal arteritis can cause serious complications and can have a severe effect on the eyes and visual field. The condition requires urgent medical attention in order to reduce the risk of such complications.

Temporal arteritis causes the arteries, particularly those at the temples to become swollen and inflamed. It is also known as giant cell arteritis (GCA) or cranial arteritis.

Who is most likely to get giant cell arteritis (GCA)?

There are several factors that put you more at risk of developing giant cell arteritis (GCA):


If the condition already runs in the family, there may be an increased risk of someone developing temporal arteritis.


The condition only affects adults in the over 50's. Most people with the condition are between the ages of 70 and 80.

Your place of residence and race

The condition mostly affects Caucasian people who have Scandinavian or Northern European descent.

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Those with polymyalgia rheumatica are at an increased risk of developing giant cell arteritis.


Statistically, women are almost twice as likely as men to develop giant cell arteritis (GCA).

How do I know if I have temporal arteritis?

Symptoms of giant cell arteritis include the following:

  • Double vision
  • Sudden, permanent loss of vision in one eye
  • Frequent and severe headaches (typically in the temples)
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaw pain while eating and talking
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Shoulder pain, hip pain, and stiffness
  • Painful/tender temples
  • Temple swelling
  • Inflamed temporal arteries
  • A tender scalp

These symptoms are not exclusive to temporal arteritis. Should any of the conditions listed above be of concern to you, you should consult your doctor immediately.

How do you get giant cell arteritis?

You get giant cell arteritis when inflammation happens at the lining of your arteries which causes them to swell. The swelling causes your blood vessels to narrow, reducing the amount of blood, oxygen and vital nutrients reaching your bodies tissues.

It often affects the arteries in your head and temples. This is why giant cell arteritis is sometimes called temporal arteritis.

What are the causes of temporal arteritis?

The causes of giant cell arteritis are uncertain. However, it is suspected to be an autoimmune disease in which the blood vessels are attacked by the body's own immune system. This includes the temporal arteries supplying blood to the head and the brain.

Does temporal arteritis come and go?

Some symptoms of temporal arteritis such as head pain and temple swelling can come and go. Symptoms experienced depend on which arteries are being affected and are commonly found to include pain in the right temple and the left temple. Temporal arteritis cannot heal on its own and requires immediate medical treatment.

Can you go blind from temporal arteritis?

You'll experience visual loss and can go blind altogether should the blood vessels servicing your eye become affected. This severe loss of vision can affect one or both eyes and is usually permanent.

The eye is affected as a result of interrupted blood flow to the optic nerve. This is known as ischemic optic neuropathy and is considered an ocular emergency.

Is temporal arteritis life threatening

If left untreated, temporal arteritis can lead to serious complications which can be life threatening. One of these complications is an aortic aneurysm which is a bulge in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart down the centre of your chest and abdomen. If an aortic aneurysm bursts this can cause internal bleeding which is life threatening.

Therefore, you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of temporal arteritis.

Does giant cell arteritis cause pain?

Giant cell arteritis can cause head and jaw pain as well as pain and stiffness in the shoulders, hips and neck. Pain in these areas is due to a related symptom known as polymyalgia rheumatica. This affects around half of those with giant cell arteritis.

What does temporal arteritis pain feel like?

Temporal arteritis pain can feel like a headache or tenderness over the temples or the scalp. Your jaw may also hurt when eating or talking.

Quick links:

A guide to double vision
A guide to blurry vision
A guide to age-related macular degeneration

Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace medical care or an in-person check-up. Please check with an eyecare professional before purchasing any products or remedies. For information on our article review process, please refer to our Editorial Policy.

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