Dealing with giant cell arteritis

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Giant cell arteritis is a condition in which the medium sized arteries found in the scalp, eye and face becomes narrowed and inflamed. It causes headaches, tenderness of the scalp, pain in the jaw and problems with vision. If not properly treated, this condition can result to loss of vision or stroke. The large blood vessels, aorta and its branches can be affected by this condition and can rupture years later.

Symptoms of giant cell arteritis

  • Sudden and permanent loss of vision in one eye
  • Double vision
  • Throbbing headache usually in the temples
  • Pain in the jaw after chewing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tenderness of the scalp or temples
  • Pain in the upper arms, shoulders, hips or upper thighs especially in the morning
  • Persistent pain in the head especially in the temple area
  • Unintended loss of weight
  • Bleeding gums

Risk factors

  • Older adults
  • Women
  • A person with Scandinavian origin
  • Suffering from polymyalgia rheumatica with aching and stiffness in the shoulders, hips and neck.


  • Take the prescribed steroids such as prednisone to lessen the inflammation in the arteries at least 60 mg every day followed by a reduced maintenance dose of 10 mg every day for 1-2 years. This medication can cause weakening of the bones. Take the prescribed calcium and vitamin D supplements together with a prescribed medication bisphosphonate to prevent damage on the bone.
  • Take the prescribed low dose aspirin to thin out the blood and prevent stroke or heart attack.
  • Take the prescribed proton pump inhibitor to prevent the risk of developing an ulcer. Proton pump inhibitors are medications for long lasting reduction of gastric acid production.
  • Maintain a healthy diet by increasing the consumption of protein to prevent thinning of the bone, high blood pressure and diabetes. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats and whole grains. Avoid beverages such as alcohol. Minimize sugar and salt.
  • Perform regular exercises such as aerobics to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes and bone loss.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Take the prescribed vitamin K supplement to prevent the risk of developing osteoporosis when taking steroids for treatment.
  • Maintain an ideal weight. Avoid being overweight to prevent making the condition worse.

Giant cell arteritis that is not treated properly can result to complications that include inflammation and damage to the other blood vessels in the body along with loss of vision or blindness, stroke and aortic aneurysms.

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