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Giant Cell Arteritis

What is Giant Cell Arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), sometimes also called temporal arteritis, is a condition in which medium and large arteries, usually around the temples, in the head and neck become inflamed and the blood supply along that artery can become blocked. The most common arteries this affects are the small arteries going to the eye. If one of these arteries becomes blocked it can cause permanent, serious visual problems, even blindness.

The condition is one of the most common types of inflammation of the arteries and veins (vasculitis). Up to half of people with GCA develop a related condition called polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR).

Who it Affects

It is estimated that 1 per 500 people develop giant cell arteritis in the US and about 1 in every 4,500 people in the UK each year. Giant cell arteritis mainly affect adults over the age of 60 and rarely affects people under the age of 50. Giant cell arteritis is three times more common in women than in men. It’s also seven times more common in white people than in black people.

Giant Cell Arteritis Symptoms

The most common symptom of giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a severe headache, other symptoms include jaw pain when eating, blurred or double vision, or a sore scalp. Symptoms usually develop quickly. On occasion other symptoms, such as weight loss or tiredness, may be present for weeks or months beforehand.

Vision problems affect about 1 in 5 people with giant cell arteritis. Many people will experience episodes of double vision before the loss of vision occurs. This can occur in one or both eyes and if left untreated can lead to blindness. Once vision is lost, there is little chance of recovery of vision, even with treatment. Treatment is therefore aimed at preventing visual loss or, if visual loss has occurred in one eye, to prevent loss in the other eye. However, even with treatment, visual loss occurs in up to 1 in 20 cases.


Blood tests may be carried out however the most effective way to diagnose the condition is to remove some tissue from your temporal artery so it can be studied. This procedure is known as a temporal artery biopsy.

Giant Cell Arteritis Treatment

Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) is a medical emergency, as GCA can cause blindness, it requires prompt anti-inflammatory medication usually in the form of steroid medication (corticosteroids) in high doses, to counter the inflammation and protect the fellow eye which is vulnerable. Without prompt treatment the result can be permanent visual impairment. This may mean that treatment begins before a diagnosis is confirmed.

Most people need to take steroids on a long-term basis to prevent their symptoms returning. A two-year course of corticosteroids is usually required.
Other types of medication, such as low-dose aspirin and medication that suppresses the immune system (immunosuppressants), may also be used to reduce the risk of the condition recurring and complications developing.

Giant Cell Arteritis Prevention

At a fundamental level free radicals are neutralised by antioxidants, and it is for this reason that I recommend a diet rich in good quality fruits and vegetables which will provide the antioxidants to neutralise the free radicals and counter the (systemic) inflammation. This principle applies to the management of all autoimmune diseases.

I have for many years recommended a concept which makes it possible to obtain the required natural antioxidants in a simple format. Read more about my recommendation in my eBook.

Further Information

  1. Giant Cell Arteritis –

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