Giant Cell Arteritis: Another Inflammatory Disorder

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side profile sick female having ear pain headache. Tinnitus.

A patient complaining of persistent headaches is something a Pain Management physician sees all too often. However, a patient with headaches accompanied with flu-like symptoms, unexplained tiredness, and fevers is much less common. Having all of these can be from an illness called Giant Cell Arteritis, also known as GCA. This is a disease of the blood vessels that occurs very commonly with Polymyalgia Rheumatica.

What is Giant Cell Arteritis?

GCA is an inflammatory disorder that causes the lining of the arteritis to become inflamed. It is a type of vasculitis or arteritis, a group of diseases where the main function is inflammation of blood vessels. Most often, the inflammation affects the arteries in the head and scalp, especially in the temples. It can also be referred to as Temporal Arteritis.


  • Headache: usually found in the temples
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Flu-like feeling
  • Jaw pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained fever
  • Less common symptoms include pain in the face, throat, or tongue

There have been cases where GCA expands to the blood supply of the eye, impacting the patient’s eyesight. Vision problems are not uncommon, and can include blurred vision, double vision, and even permanent blindness.


Much like Polymyalgia Rheumatica(PMR), it is unknown why the arteries become inflamed. It can be related to certain genes or gene variations, but there is no definitive answer. Doctors and researchers are still trying to determine how GCA and PMR are related, and why they frequently occur together.


Treating GCA is more vigorous than treating PMR. Physicians might start the patient on high doses of steroid medications, like prednisone, before getting the results of the biopsy. These precautions are taken to try and ensure that the patient does not experience vision loss.

Patients with GCA will also be on prednisone longer than those who only have PMR. Medication can be taken up to two years following a diagnosis. However, doctors will gradually lower the dosage after a month. During the period, of decreasing amounts prescribed, patients can experience headaches, and this is likely when Polymyalgia Rheumatica symptoms start to develop. Luckily, Giant Cell Arteritis rarely returns after treatment.


Any type of pain, whether small, crippling, debilitating, frequent or infrequent should never be ignored. It is important to be in-tune with your body and take the best care of it.

At IMS Pain Management we have the answers to your questions and why your body is experiencing pain. Schedule an appointment today to ease your mind, body, and soul.

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