Temporal arteritis: How does it affect my eyes?


Temporal Arteritis

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 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).

Do symptoms of temporal arteritis come and go?

Some symptoms of temporal arteritis such as head pain 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.

Giant cell arteritis symptoms

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
  • 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.

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.

In addition to this, high doses of antibiotics and certain infections have also been linked to temporal arteritis.

Can temporal arteritis heal on its own?

Temporal arteritis cannot heal on its own and requires immediate medical treatment.

Does giant cell arteritis go away?

Giant arteritis will not go away and cannot be cured. However, medical treatment can minimise tissue damage resulting from the condition and should be undertaken immediately if GCA is suspected.

Treatment of giant cell arteritis

Temporal arteritis is treated with steroids and treatment usually begins before the condition is confirmed. Immediate treatment is required to prevent sight loss.

Treatment is undergone in 2 stages:

  1. A high dose of steroids is used to bring symptoms under control.
  2. Once the symptoms improve, the steroids are reduced to a lower dose. This dose is required over a much longer period of time.

Other treatments to reduce the risk factors of temporal arteritis include:

  • A low dose of aspirin to prevent a stroke or a heart attack
  • Proton Pump inhibitors to reduce the risk of indigestion, stomach ulcers and other problems relating to the stomach
  • bisphosphonate therapy – to reduce the risk of osteoporosis when taking the steroids
  • immunosuppressants – this allows the steroid medication to be reduced and can help prevent temporal arteritis coming back

Before treatment is undergone, your doctor may suggest a temporal artery biopsy. This procedure can determine whether you have giant cell arteritis.

This biopsy aims to take a small sample of one of the temporal arteries. This sample is then examined under a microscope for temporal arteritis. Although rare, temporal artery biopsy can have side effects.

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.

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.

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

While this can affect most large or medium arteries, swelling is more common in the temple’s arteries.

The arteries are thought to become inflamed as a result of an autoimmune disease, however, the exact cause is unknown.

Quick links

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



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