Giant Cell Arteritis: A sight Devastating Disease

Giant cell arteritis or temporal arteritis is an inflammatory disease of medium sized arteries. This inflammation causes the opening of the artery to narrow and this decreases the blood flowing through the artery. The eye is supplied blood from medium sizes arteries so this makes it more likely to get affected then some other organs. This disease can cause irreversible blindness in both eyes in a period as short as a few hours. Promptly recognizing the disease and starting treatment are essential.

Who Gets Giant Cell/Temporal Arteritis?

Giant cell/temporal arteritis usually occurs in patients of european descent over the age of 55. This does not mean it can not occur in other groups but it is less common. 80% of the patients are female. If you smoke this can increase your risk by almost 6 times, which makes sense because smoking will increase inflammation. If you have a previous diagnosis of polymyalgia rheumatica you  have a significantly higher risk of getting giant cell/temple arteritis since the two disease are very similar.

What are Signs of Giant Cell/Temporal Arteritis

While the signs of giant cell/temporal arteritis can vary there are some common ones that every patient and doctor should remember. While not all have to be present, the more of these that you have together the more the suspicious of giant cell/temporal arteritis you should be.

  • New onset Headache
  • Temple tenderness (pain when touching around the temple area)
  • Jaw claudication (sorness in the jaw when eating or talking)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Low grade fevers
  • Vision loss or episodes of temporary vision loss
  • Double vision
  • Fatigue

Often people tell me they noticed things changing over the last months or so but never thought much of it. It is important to not dismiss these symptoms as getting older, because they could be signs of a severe process, that without proper treatment could cause blindness that is irreversible. I always tell patients and doctors that if a patient over 55 comes in complaining of a new headache this diagnosis is always in my mind, as well if there is any vision fluctuations that I can not easily explain.


If any of this sounds like you or someone you know please have them contact Sarasota Retina Institute at 941-921-5335 for further evaluation

Next time we will talk about the test for Giant Cell/Temporal arteritis and the treatments.


Jody Abrams, MD

Oculoplastics/ Neuro-ophthalmology

Sarasota Retina Institute

Sarasota, Florida 




  1. […] time I talked about what are some of the signs and symptoms of  giant cell/temporal arteritis. Remember vision loss, headaches, jaw pain, fevers, and unexplained weight loss can all be warning […]

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