Giant Cell Arteritis Facts

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Giant Cell Arteritis

Before I tell you what giant cell arteritis is or the dangers of having this condition I will tell what happened to me.

The pain started very subtly and developed into a throb, but still a dull ache that was constant. I have had this pain before and thought it was just a migraine. I knew that taking painkillers was in-effective so I would always try just to relax and fall asleep hoping the pain would subside. Sometimes I would place an icepack on it and it would feel better.

The pain came back around about May 17. But before the pain came back there was a tenderness on the right side of my head left there from the previous bout of dull ache which was about a month before.

I took some painkillers again hoping this time they would work but to they didn't. By Tuesday May 22, I was so debilitated from the pain that I had to see the doctor at the hospital only to be told that my temporal artery was inflamed which was causing the pain.

My blood pressure had sky-rocketed which triggered the pain. My blood pressure reading was 210/120. That is unacceptable and very dangerous. I was lucky that I didn't have a stroke!

I will explain to you what temporal arteritis is and what causes it.


The temporal artery

The temporal artery is located on each side of the head, which starts at the neck and extends to the temple area just alongside the ear and extends to the crown, and is also known as the superficial temporal artery.

The temporal artery is actually a branch off from the carotid artery which starts at the border of the thyroid cartilage and curves and twists its way up to just behind the neck and jawline. Then it branches off into the superficial temporal and the internal maxillary arteries.

As we know, arteries are blood vessels that transport blood to and from the heart. There are two type of arteries; pulmonary and systemic. The pulmonary artery takes de-oxygenated blood to the lungs where it picks up oxygen and sends it back to the heart via the pulmonary veins. The now oxygenated blood is transported through the systemic arteries around the body.

The temporal artery is a systemic artery and is a part of the artery system which supplies oxygen to the head.



About temporal arteritis aka giant cell arteritis

Temporal arteritis is an inflammation of the temporal artery. In some instances it's also called giant cell arteritis because a build up of cells occur in the large arteries. The inflammation can occur in any of the large arteries so the temporal arteritis is local to the temporal artery.

This condition is very common in people over 50 and rarely affects anyone younger yet in my case it wasn't so. When the cells develop in the artery they can block the transportation of oxygen. This can result in strokes, blindness to the affected side and blood clots.

Temporal arteritis symptoms

  • Headache: This condition brings on a headache. In some cases it may start off as a sharp pain then gradually tone down to be a dull throbbing pain as with my case. It is believed that 2/3 of people with the condition will experience headaches. The pain can be on one side or two sided and is typically at the temple.
  • Tenderness: The tenderness started at the front of my ear and extended to near the crown of my head. Whenever I rested the tenderness would be less and near the ear would be most affected. When I felt the artery I could tell that there was an area that had somewhat of a firm of lumpy feel. That area was most painful and I realized that was where the cells were lodged.
  • Numbness: Occasionally I would feel a sort of weird feeling there, almost like a numbness that would not last. When I did my research I found that some people experienced numbness too, especially if left unchecked.
  • Pain in the jaw: I did not experience this but some people experience pain in the jaw area when eating or talking.
  • Other possible symptoms may include loss of appetite, night sweat, depressions, fever and weight loss.

When you feel this pain it is so debilitating that you can't concentrate on anything and you don't want to eat. You don't sleep well and you toss all night. You definitely can't sleep in the side of the pain even if you are using a soft pillow so you are uncomfortable. All you want to do is lay in bed. Laying down and resting seems to make you feel a little better. Normal painkillers don't work. Try not to touch the area for you will only make the pain worse.


Treatment

In my case I was given two shots and a tablet to immediately get my blood pressure back to normal. I was prescribed anti-inflammatory painkillers to reduce the inflammation and blood pressure meds which are to be taken every morning after breakfast.

Usually persons with temporal arteritis are placed on a treatment of steriod tablets to help reduce the inflammation but in some cases regular anti-inflammatory drugs are used. Some doctors may also prescribe aspirin along with the steroid because aspirin is known to thin the blood and help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. When taking steroids and aspirin you are at risk for developing ulcers in the stomach so the doctor may also prescribe another medication that will help to reduce the acid in the stomach.

In most cases a biopsy might be needed for diagnosis or a blood test but the symptoms are so localized and specific that a doctor can often diagnose without the biopsy or blood test.


The risk of having temporal arteritis

  • Stroke: temporal arteritis if left untreated can lead to a stroke. If the artery becomes blocked by the build up of cells, then blood flow and oxygen will stop and the brain will suffer.
  • Blindness: The eyes are supplied with blood and oxygen from these arteries as well and lack of blood flowing to the eye can cause permanent damage leading to permanent vision loss.

When other arteries become affected due to this condition.

  • Heart attack
  • Aneurysms
  • Stroke
  • Deafness
  • Nerve damage

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above please seek medical attention immediately. Leaving temporal arteritis unchecked could be dangerous.

~~~~~


Disclaimer:

Talk to Your Health Care Provider

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You take full legal responsibility for whatever decisions you make regarding your own health care. Consult your health care provider.

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Comments 20 comments

Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Cardisa I hope you are all better now. Thanks for sharing this vital piece of information. Looks like detecting Temporal arteritis is difficult cause we might always end up thinking it is just another migraine.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hey Vellur, not fully recovered but getting better, thank you. Yes, at first I thought it was a normal headache so did nothing about it. It happened twice before but this time I decided to do some research and found out it was a serious condition that should be tended immediately. Thanks for stopping by.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

Cardisa, sorry to hear that you have been so unwell, but glad that you are recovering. I suffer headaches and migraines very frequently but fortunately don't think that they are this sort. Take care of yourself!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I'm so glad you went to the doctor!

Take good care of yourself, sweetie.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Jude Bee, thank you. I hate having headaches because it's always hard to tell what's causing them. I hope you are getting treatment for those headaches as well. Take care and thanks.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Will, I am doing much better, thanks. I will take better care from now on.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 4 years ago from eastern North Dakota

There is just too much going on inside our bodies, Carolee, it's mind-boggling. Just like electricity and auto mechanics and computers: I don't know how they work, just that they "do." Good hub!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi James, I totally agree with you there. Luckily I know a little about the body and computer but auto-mechanics is not my thing. The body is an ever running machine that never really shuts off even while we sleep. Thanks for stopping by James.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

very informative


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thank you Mhatter99, have a great evening.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Cardisa, how horrible for you! I hope you get better fast. It sounds really scary. The steroids can be a problem too and if taken too long, cause more problems. May God bless you with a quick recovery.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hey Jackie, I am feeling better and taking my meds. I have not been very active since. I try to publish since I am in the HP Apprenticeships program but haven't been reading too much or participating much. I have to take it easy. I got some anti-inflammatory painkillers, no steroids for me. I only take them when there is pain and I haven't been feeling much pain since I started on the BP meds. My fiancé and I were very scared, it was literally a wake up call to take better care of myself.

Thank you so much for the good wishes and I will take better care of myself from now on. Thanks Jackie.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

Great Cardisa, really glad to hear that. Lucky you got a good diagnosis. This is something I have never heard of. Thanks for sharing.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thanks to you Jackie. It's a rare condition in younger people that's why you haven't heard of it.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Thank you for very valuable warning. I am glad you are OK. Stroke is one of my fears. I had a friend who was devastated by a terrible one and lost his expressive speech. You have done us a favor.Take care!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Rebecca, it was my pleasure to write about this as it gave me quite a scare. I don't know how I would deal with having a stroke. I don't think my partner would cope well. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Have a great day.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I hope you are doing better since the diagnosis. This does sound pretty severe. Thank you for bringing this to our attention as it could possibly save someone's life. Voted up.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica Author

Thanks Teaches123, the scariest part is that you think it's a normal headache when it's not. I am doing much better now thank you. Have a great day.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Cardisa, I hope you are fully recovered from this disease.

This is so scary for me, I have severe migraines and don't know about this, but I am going for a screening on the 22nd of this month, and hopefully, can get some information.

Voted up and shared.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 2 years ago from Jamaica Author

Hi Shyron. Yes, I am fully recovered, thank you.

I hope you are okay and you will not be diagnosed with the same issue. I tell you, it's very painful and distracting. You lose focus and that spot is very sore all the time. It prevents you from concentrating. In other words, it's kind of debilitating. I do hope your screening doesn't find anything serious.

Have a blessed day.

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