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What is Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) or Temporal Arteritis (TA)?

Just diagnosed with GCA?

If you need to talk it over, call our helpline on 0300 111 5090. Contact us to order an information pack.

The main early symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) are headache and tenderness over the sides of the forehead. The headache of GCA is a 'new onset headache''; in other words a severe headache that a person hasn't experienced before. People with GCA need urgent treatment with steroids, which will usually prevent serious complications such as eye problems and blindness.

The cause is not known.

What are the Symptoms?

If you have these symptoms, you should contact your doctor urgently.

People may also experience:

Up to 50% of people with GCA also develop PMR (see section on Polymyalgia Rheumatica). Similar medications are used for both conditions.

What Tests are Needed?

GCA is likely if you have the typical symptoms and blood tests show a high level of inflammation, although some people with GCA and PMR have normal blood tests. Further tests are advised to confirm the diagnosis, which may include a small biopsy of the affected artery. If you are told you need a biopsy, please download our information leaflet.

What is the Treatment?

Suspected GCA is usually treated immediately with a high dose of Prednisolone (steroid) to reduce the risk of complications and relieve headaches and other symptoms.

In some cases the condition goes away after 2-3 years, so medication may be stopped (under medical supervision).
But, for many people, treatment is required for several years, and sometimes for life.

Are there any Complications?

Complications are less likely if treatment is started immediately after onset of symptoms.

Untreated GCA could lead to the following possible complications:

Resources

Giant Cell Arteritis - booklet

Arthritis Research UK is a charity that funds high class research as well as educate and inform the general public about different musculoskeletal conditions. They released a booklet on Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) which provides answers to questions about this condition.

To download the booklet please click here.

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