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HealthInfo Canterbury

Giant cell arteritis (GCA)

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also called temporal arteritis is an uncommon but serious condition that affects people mainly over the age of 50. It is caused by inflammation of some of the arteries that usually supply the head and neck area. The most common artery to be affected is the temporal artery, which is on each side of the forehead (the temple area). If the arteries become very inflamed, they can block the blood supply and can sometimes cause permanent damage to the area the artery supplies.

As GCA can cause blindness and other visual problems, it's very important that it is treated urgently to try to prevent this from happening. If you are worried about symptoms of this condition, see your general practice team or after-hours healthcare service immediately.

Do I have giant cell arteritis (GCA) or temporal arteritis?

Symptoms of GCA can vary, but the most common symptom is a bad headache, which is often worse at night. Other, less common symptoms include:

You may also feel generally unwell, for example, feeling tired, depressed, feverish, losing weight, not wanting to eat. These symptoms can appear well before a headache or other specific symptom develops.

You may also have symptoms of PMR. This happens in about half of people who get GCA. It can occur at the same time as GCA or may occur before or afterwards.

If you are over 50 years old and have these symptoms, or a combination of these symptoms, then it is possible that you might have GCA. Make an appointment with your general practice team as soon as possible. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and how long you have had them.

A blood test will usually be done to check for signs of inflammation. If this blood test is high and you have typical symptoms of GCA then it is likely that you will have GCA. This blood test can be high in other conditions as well. However, sometimes this test can be normal but a person can still have GCA.

In this section

Treatment for giant cell arteritis (GCA) or temporal arteritis

Who can help with GCA?

More information about giant cell arteritis

Page reference: 78658

Review key: HIGCA-18689