Causes Of Temporal Arteritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Temporal arteritis is inflammation and damage of temporal arteries which supply blood to temporal area of head and brain. This disease is predominantly found in elderly people over the age of 60 years. It characteristically involves medium sized arteries. The condition is also referred as giant cell arteritis and arteritis of the aged.

Temporal arteritis is more common in women than men. The exact etiology of this condition is not known, but it is believed to of autoimmune and infectious origin. One sided throbbing headache, problems related to vision, weight loss, joint and muscle ache are few characteristic symptoms of temporal arteritis.

The disease cannot be prevented, but after its diagnosis it can treated to reduce complications such as blindness and stroke.

What Are The Causes Of Temporal Arteritis?

The exact cause of temporal arteritis is uncertain, however it is suspected to occur as a result of body’s autoimmune response or due to an infective pathology. Over dosage of antibiotics is also suspected to be the underlying cause.

The disease has predilection for elderly individuals. People over the age of 60 are likely to suffer from this condition. It occurs predominantly in women. According to some temporal arteritis is more common in Caucasians than people of other races.

The risk increases if a close relative has history of temporal arteritis.

Arteritis is inflammation of the small caliber arteries, the blood vessel which carries blood from heart to various parts of the body. This condition can affect any artery of medium size similar to temporal artery in head. The inner lumen of the artery becomes inflamed with the attack of giant cell and chemicals due to immune response. Inflammation in the temporal artery reduces blood flow to head and brain leading to various symptoms.

Symptoms Of Temporal Arteritis

In the beginning the symptoms of this disease mimic the symptoms of flu. Patient will typically present with mild fever, malaise and headache. Headache is often intense and unbearable for the patient. It occurs usually over the involved artery that is in temporal region of head.

  • The area of scalp is tender to touch. The disease is quiet suggestive when the there is pain in jaw while chewing along with headache.
  • As the disease advances patient may complain of other symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, painful muscles, night sweating, etc.
  • With progression of the condition patient may experience vision problems. This includes blurred vision, double vision and patient may have temporary loss of vision that usually lasts for few minutes. If the condition is not treated, patient may lose his vision. Blindness may occur due to damage to the ophthalmic artery.

Diagnosis And Treatment For Temporal Arteritis

Diagnosis: Frequent blackouts, history of someone in the family suffering from the disease, tenderness on scalp while examining and presence of other symptoms will help the physician to diagnose the condition. Certain blood test will be useful to indicate inflammatory changes. Blood ESR and C reactive protein test is inevitable as it helps to diagnose the condition. Besides the tests, diagnosis is confirmed after a biopsy of the temporal artery.

There is no permanent cure for temporal arteritis. Management goal is to reduce further damage so that blood flow is not affected. Secondly if the condition is suspected, treatment should be started as soon as possible to prevent serious complications such as stroke, aortic aneurism and blindness.

Oral corticosteroid is the mainstay treatment of temporal arteritis. With ESR as a guide, the dose of corticosteroid is gradually tapered to a maintenance dose for 1 or 2 years. Together with the medicine patient has to stop smoking, alcohol, and practice regular exercise.