Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Understanding Giant Cell Arteritis and How a Vascular Surgeon Can Help

Although giant cell arteritis is rare in comparison to other vascular conditions, the consequences of not treating it can become severe. Each year, around one in 500 Australians will encounter giant cell arteritis that affects the eyes. The medical term for the condition is temporal arteritis, and when it arises, you need to recognise the symptoms and tackle them urgently. Knowing more about them and how a vascular surgeon can help could prevent you from losing your sight.

The signs and symptoms of temporal arteritis

In most cases, temporal arteritis arises in those over the age of 70. It usually affects women more than men, but men are not immune. If you're suffering from the condition, you may notice:

  • Severe headaches that focus around your temples and/or the surrounding regions, typically on one side of the head.
  • Tender sensations when you press your temple.
  • Pain in your jaw when eating or talking.
  • Sudden loss of vision or double vision. 

You may also notice that your joints ache, your blood pressure rises and you have a fever. Sometimes the symptoms occur in isolation, though, so don't ignore them if they arise alone.

How your surgical team can treat it

If your vascular surgeon feels as though giant cell arteritis is the most likely diagnosis, they will administer a steroid before performing tests. The condition is time-sensitive, which means clinical judgement alone is useful for initiating treatment. As any visual damage that arises is usually irreversible, rapidly starting therapies is crucial. 

In most cases, medical management alone is sufficient, and your team will likely liaise with eye doctors. However, if they feel as though the condition is present because of an aneurysm elsewhere, they may need to perform investigative surgery and repair any defects. An aneurysm is a biological process that involves major blood vessels dilating, which disrupts the flow of blood. With surgical management at the right time, you can recover from an aneurysm.

Outcomes for giant cell arteritis patients

If you approach a medical professional or a vascular surgeon quickly, you can reduce the likelihood of losing your vision. However, if visual loss begins to occur, it's highly unlikely that you will regain your sight. Receiving a diagnosis also allows you to receive treatment for underlying problems, reducing the likelihood of it reoccurring.

If you worry about temporal arteritis, or you are experiencing the signs or symptoms, discuss the matter with your GP or a vascular surgeon. With the right expertise, you can prevent adverse health outcomes.