Giant cell arteritis is characterized by inflamed arterial lining. Arteries are the vessels or conduits that are responsible for carrying the oxygenated blood to the body organs from the heart. Usually this condition frequently targets the arteries present in the neck, arms and head, particularly the ones in the temple region. Soitis also referred to as cranial arteritis or temporal arteritis. Immediate treatment of this condition is essential so as to avoid any permanent or long lasting damage to the tissue or organs. Often, the use of corticosteroids to treat symptoms of gain cell arteritis proves efficacious. Once the treatment begins, you will soon find yourself feeling better.
Symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis
Common symptoms associated with giant cell arteritis are listed below:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Double vision or vision loss of an eye that may be permanent and sudden
- Pain in the jaw upon opening the mouth or chewing
- Tender scalp (you may experience pain while combing hair or placing your head on the pillow, particularly at the spot of inflamed arteries)
- Severe constant headache along with tenderness, especially in the temple area
- Loss of appetite
Complications of Giant Cell Arteritis
- Vision loss: It’s one of the major complications. The consequent swelling narrows the blood vessels which results in inadequate supply of important nutrients and oxygen to the tissues. This results in vision loss in one or rarely both the eyes.
- Aortic aneurysm: Aneurysm is characterized by the bulged blood vessels that become weakened, particularly in aorta. It is critical because once bursts, it can cause severe internal bleeding. The doctor will monitor you frequently with the help of X-rays, MRI, CT scan or ultrasound.
- Stroke: In few cases, the artery affected by giant cell arteritis may be clotted. It can result in complete obstruction of blood flow that deprives nutrients and oxygen of the brain and causes stroke. However this complication, serious as it may be, happens rarely.
Remember: if you begin experiencing a new sort of constant headache or any other symptoms listed above, seek medical help immediately. If diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, discuss the treatment options with your doctor and start the treatment as soon as possible to prevent permanent vision loss.
Causes of Giant Cell Arteritis
With giant cell arteritis, arteries may become inflamed, causing them to swell and sometimes even clot the blood flow. But the exact cause of artery inflammation is still unknown. However, certain people are at risk for giant cell arteritis. Old people are more at risk as the average estimated age of the disease onset is 70. Women tend to have higher risks than men. Studies show that people born in Northern European countries and people of Scandinavian origin are at a greater risk.
How to Diagnose Giant Cell Arteritis
Given below are the diagnostic tests that may be employed while diagnosing giant cell arteritis:
- Physical exam & medical history
- Blood tests & CRP test
- Biopsy: To confirm it even further, your doctor may suggest biopsy.
- MRA: Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) is a combination of MRI and a contrast material to amplify the images.
- Doppler ultrasound: It utilizes sound waves to obtain images.
- Positron emission tomography: An intravenous radioactive material is used for diagnosis.
Treatments for Giant Cell Arteritis
The following prescribed medical treatments and some safe home remedies will assist you in getting over this problem.
1. Medical Treatments for Giant Cell Arteritis
The goal of medical treatment is to alleviate symptoms, minimize the complications and eventually solve the problem.
How it works: Steroids produce their effect by minimizing the inflammation. Once the treatment begins, the symptoms are usually alleviated.
How to take: The treatment is usually initiated with a high steroidal dose of 60 mg/day followed by the reduced maintenance dose. The maintenance dose must be effective enough to provide symptomatic relief and is often recommended as 10mg/day. The steroidal treatment withdrawal must take place under the doctor’s supervision. A few people are lucky enough to get rid of giant cell arteritis within the period of 2-3 years; but some people remain on steroidal treatment for many years and even for the rest of their lives.
Side effects: The following side effects include cataracts, glaucoma, muscle weakness, high blood pressure and osteoporosis along with compromised immune system, thinning of skin, weight loss and elevated blood sugar levels. So this treatment should be monitored and measures like exercise, changing diet, taking blood pressure lowering medications, vitamin D and calcium supplements can prevent from bone loss.
A low dose aspirin (75 mg) along with steroids will also benefit you. Low dose aspirin is given for prophylaxis to prevent the occurrence of stroke or heart attack.
- Proton pump inhibitor
Intake of aspirin and steroids together, may put you at risk of developing stomach ulcers. So it is advised to take proton pump inhibitor along with them to reduce the risk of ulcers.
2. Home Remedies for Giant Cell Arteritis
Try some home remedies to cooperate with medical treatments, can help you get better control of yourself and recover sooner.
- Know your condition
When it comes to your disease condition be the know-it-all’ kind of person. Keep updated about your actual conditions. You may benefit from question/answer sessions of the health care team and online support groups. Be well informed on the side effects of your medications.
- Maintain a healthy diet
Adequate consumption of protein can keep you from having thinning bones, diabetes and elevated blood pressure. Utilize more of fresh vegetables and fruits, fish, lean meat and whole grains. Minimize the intake of alcohol, sugar and salt. Make sure you get enough vitamin D and calcium.
- Do exercise regularly
Doing aerobics on the regular basis assists in preventing from diabetes, elevated blood pressure and bone loss and also boosts the mood. If you aren’t much of an exercising person, begin with slow pace and gradually increase the time up to 30 minutes.