Giant cell arteritis is an inflammation of the lining of your arteries — the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body.
Most often, it affects the arteries in your head, especially those in your temples. For this reason, giant cell arteritis is sometimes called temporal arteritis or cranial arteritis.
Most people with polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis lead productive, active lives. The duration of drug treatment differs by patient. Once treatment is discontinued, polymyalgia may recur; but once again, symptoms respond rapidly to prednisone. When properly treated, giant cell arteritis rarely recurs.
If vision has not been affected, the outlook is excellent. However, once vision loss occurs, it is usually permanent. If the aorta or nearby branches are involved, the prognosis may be worse, because these blood vessels may enlarge or even rupture. However, most complications related to giant cell arteritis are caused by steroid therapy rather the disease itself.
A person with giant cell arteritis can sometimes develop further problems associated with the condition.
Visual Impairment- Despite the best efforts of healthcare professionals, around one in five people with giant cell arteritis will experience some degree of visual impairment. This can range from some loss of vision in one eye to total blindness.
Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm- The inflammation that is associated with giant cell arteritis can sometimes lead to a weakening in the walls of one of the major blood vessels in the body, known as the abdominal aorta. This is the main blood vessel that is responsible for taking blood from the heart and distributing it to the rest of the body.
Cardiovascular Disease- People with giant cell arteritis are also at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is the general term for disease of the heart or blood vessels. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of stroke and heart attacks.
Learning everything you can about giant cell arteritis and its treatment can help you feel more in control of your condition. Your health care team can answer your questions, and online support groups may also be of help. Know the possible side effects of any medication you take, and report any changes in your health to your doctor.
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