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Temporal Arteritis 
(Giant Cell Arteritis) can make you Blind

Overview: Temporal arteritis, known as giant cell arteritis, is an inflammatory condition affecting the medium-sized blood vessels that supply the head, eyes, and optic nerves.  The disease usually affects those over 60 years of age and causes the vessels in the temple and scalp to become swollen and tender.  Women are approximately 4 times more likely to suffer from this disease then men. 

   

a thick temporal artery Visible on the forehead.

The major concern with temporal arteritis is vision loss, although if allowed to progress, it may affect arteries in other areas of the body.  This condition is potentially vision threatening, however, if treated promptly, permanent vision loss can be prevented.  Vision is threatened when the inflamed arteries obstruct blood flow to the eyes andoptic nerves.  If untreated, permanent vision loss can occur from oxygen deprivation to the retina and optic nerve.


 
Signs and Symptoms

Patients with temporal arteritis usually notice visual symptoms in one eye at first, but as many as 50% may notice symptoms in the fellow eye within days if the condition is untreated.    

  • Headache

  • Tenderness of scalp (combing hair may be painful)
  • Pain in temple area (may be excruciating)
  • Transient blurred vision

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Depression 

  • Drooping lid

  • Double vision

  • Sore neck

  • Jaw soreness, especially when chewing food

 
Detection and Diagnosis

Looking in the Fundus of the EYE

You see a pale disc in the center

When temporal arteritis is suspected, the doctor will order  blood tests including a erythrocyte (red blood cell) sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein test.  The ESRtest measures the time it takes for the erythrocytes to collect in the bottom of a test tube.  The sediment layer of erythrocytes is measured in millimeters and recorded.   An abnormally high ESR is indicative of active inflammation.

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