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What is Temporal Arteritis?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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Temporal arteritis is a condition which causes medium and large arteries in the head to become inflamed. The condition is named as such because the inflammation predominantly affects the large arteries lining the temples in the head. When large arteries in other parts of the body such as the neck become inflamed, the condition is then known as giant cell arteritis. Temporal arteritis can become very serious if not properly treated. An individual displaying signs of the condition should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The causes of temporal arteritis have not been distinctly identified. Sometimes, it may coincide with another health condition. An example of this may be individuals with polymyalgia rheumatica. This is a disorder which causes inflammation and stiffness in the upper arms, neck, hips and shoulders. Commonly, people with with temporal arteritis will develop this disorder and people with polymyalgia rheumatica may develop this artery inflammation condition.

Severe head pain is generally the most prevalent symptom of this condition. The headache may present an aching or throbbing sensation which may appear in both temples or just one. Some people will also experience tenderness in the scalp. The head discomfort may be so severe that it may become difficult for the person to lie down, particularly on his or her side.

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Often, any type of facial movement will be painful for a person with temporal arteritis. Facial movements such as yawning, chewing and repetitive talking may become difficult. Other temporal arteritis symptoms may include double or blurry vision, muscle pain and stiffness and weight loss. Sometimes, symptoms will mimic those of a common cold. Under these circumstances, an individual may experience fatigue, a fever and a loss of appetite.

A temporal arteritis biopsy may be performed for a proper diagnosis. During a biopsy, a physician will generally remove a section of a suspected artery to be examined for inflammation. Usually, local anesthesia is used for the procedure. Other diagnostic tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, a blood test and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be used to diagnose this condition.

Temporal arteritis treatment will typically involve taking corticosteroids. These medications are frequently administered to treat inflammation. Due to potentially serious complications, it will be important for treatment to begin as soon as the condition is discovered. Some of the most serious complications of this type of artery inflammation can be a stroke or an aortic aneurysm. Either of these serious health issues may lead to paralysis, blindness and sometimes death, therefore, prompt medical treatment is extremely important with this condition.

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