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

Just diagnosed with Giant Cell Arteritis?

If you need to talk it over, please call our helpline on 0300 111 5090 or contact us for 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.

GCA is an auto-immune disease (disease of the immune system)

What are the symptoms?

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

You may also experience:

Up to 50% of people with GCA have symptoms of PMR at some time (see Polymyalgia Rheumatica). 

What tests are needed?

Blood tests have to be done to look for the level of inflammation in the body. Further tests are used to confirm the diagnosis, though treatmen sometimes needs to be started before further tests are performed. The tests may include a small biopsy of the affected artery. If you are told you need a biopsy, please download our information leaflet. An ultrasound test to look for inflammation around the blood vessels may also be recommended. Occasionally other scans are required to look at other arteries in the body.

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. Starting the treatment immediately is very important:

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. There are new treatments becoming available for GCA if Prednisolone alone is not fully effective.

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

Versus Arthritis is a charity that funds high class research as well as educating and informing the general public about different musculoskeletal conditions. They released a booklet on Giant Cell Arteritis which provides answers to questions about this condition.

To download the booklet please click here

Private Rheumatologists

The following is a link to private rheumatologists in the UK.

 

Further reading:

Giant Cell Arteritis: new concepts, treatments and the unmet need that remains

This page was last updated: June 2019

 

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