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Giant Cell Arteritis

Arthritis Northwest PLLC -  - Rheumatology

Arthritis Northwest PLLC

Rheumatology located in Spokane, WA & Spokane Valley, WA

Giant cell arteritis, a condition that can cause permanent vision loss, mainly affects adults over 50. The experienced rheumatologists at Arthritis Northwest PLLC in Spokane, Washington, understand the complexities of this rheumatic disease. With early diagnosis and treatment, they can help you manage the disease and protect your vision. Call the office to book an appointment now. Or, visit us online.

Giant Cell Arteritis Q & A

What is giant cell arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis is a form of vasculitis, or blood vessel inflammation. This disease causes swelling and thickening of your temporal artery, the primary blood vessel supplying your head with blood. Giant cell arteritis can cause vision loss if not diagnosed and treated promptly. 

About half of people with giant cell arteritis also have an inflammatory joint condition called polymyalgia rheumatica, although these conditions can occur on their own as well.

The cause of giant cell arteritis is uncertain, but experts believe it's most likely the result of an immune system attack on your artery walls.

A number of factors can increase your risk for the disease, including a history of cardiovascular disease, viral or bacterial infections, and taking high doses of antibiotics. 

Giant cell arteritis occurs in adults, almost always after age 50. Women are far more likely than men to develop giant cell arteritis.

What are the symptoms of giant cell arteritis?

Usually, the initial symptom of giant cell arteritis is a new headache, often concentrated in the temples, though it can occur in the front, back, or top of your head. You may also experience:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Flulike symptoms
  • Facial, throat, or tongue pain
  • Jaw pain when chewing

Giant cell arteritis may also cause a sudden fever, which might be the only symptom you have. 

When giant cell arteritis affects the blood supply to your eye, you may experience short-term vision issues like blurriness, double vision, or vision loss in one eye. 

In some cases, giant cell arteritis may cause permanent blindness. But if you seek treatment early, the risk of permanent vision loss is just 1% or less.

How is giant cell arteritis treated?

At Arthritis Northwest PLLC, treatment depends on your particular situation. The most common treatment for giant cell arteritis is high-dose corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. 

Your symptoms usually recede rapidly after you start treatment, but you need to continue taking the medication as directed, typically for around a month. After the initial treatment, you typically lower your dose gradually and continue a low dose of corticosteroids for up to a year or two. 

Infusions of a biologic medication, tocilizumab, can treat giant cell arteritis and reduce your reliance on corticosteroids. Arthritis Northwest PLLC offers a comfortable on-site infusion room with a great view.

With prompt treatment of giant cell arteritis, you can avoid long-term vision loss. Call Arthritis Northwest PLLC to schedule an appointment today. Or, visit us online.