Also known as Temporal Arteritis, Giant Cell Arteritis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation of arteries, which are large blood vessels in your body.  Most commonly, it is the blood vessels in your head that are affected (hence the name ‘temporal’), but other large vessels can also be involved.  It is often associated with Polymyalgia Rheumatica (see above).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms depend on which arteries are affected, but the most common symptoms are

  • frequent and severe headache – this could be a generalised headache, or specifically around the temple area, making the area tender to touch
  • jaw pain whilst eating or talking
  • visual changes, such as double vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • there are also generalised symptoms such as flu-like symptoms, unintentional weight loss, depression and tiredness.

Who is affected?

It is rare for GCA to be diagnosed in people under 50 years and is 2-3 times more likely in women than men.  It also has a higher prevalence in northern European countries.  Incidence in the U.K. is approximately 2 per 10,000.

Why does it happen?

The cause of GCA remains unknown.  It is thought that there may be a genetic link, but children with parents who have GCA will not definitely develop the condition themselves.


The immediate treatment for GCA is high dose steroids.  These are then reduced extremely slowly, often over 1-2 years.  However, some people require slower reduction.  For people who are unable to reduce the steroids because symptoms return, they may need to commence medications termed as “steroid sparing agents”, such as methotrexate and leflunomide.

For more information and support on GCA visit – Giant Cell Arteritis / Temporal Arteritis – Vasculitis UK