Health Library

Temporal Arteritis

(Giant Cell Arteritis)


Temporal arteritis is inflammation of the arteries. It affects the arteries in the head, neck, and upper body. The temporal artery is most often affected. It runs over the temple, to the outside of the eye. In extreme or untreated cases, this condition can lead to blindness or strokes.

2 other terms often associated with this condition include:

  • Giant cell arteritis (GCA)
  • Vasculitis

Temporal Arteritis

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Causes    TOP

The cause of temporal arteritis is not known. It may result from an autoimmune response in the body. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system mistakes the body’s own tissue for a foreign invader, attacking and damaging it.

Risk Factors    TOP

Temporal arteritis is more common in women, and in people aged 50 years and older. It is also more common among Caucasians, especially those of Scandinavian or northern European descent. Other factors may increase your chance of getting temporal arteritis include:

  • Family history
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica—a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in muscles of the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips, and thighs

Symptoms    TOP

Temporal arteritis may cause:

  • Scalp pain or tenderness over the temporal artery
  • Headaches
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Pain when chewing
  • Pain in the jaw or tongue
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Vision changes
  • Sweats
  • Aches in the joints or muscles

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A retinal exam may also be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy—removal of a sample of the temporal artery

Images may be taken of the temporal artery. This can be done with ultrasound.

Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Corticosteroid Therapy

Corticosteroid therapy is used to decrease the swelling and inflammation. It will also help decrease the risk of blindness. At first, high doses are often given. The doses are then tapered off. Therapy is often continued for several years.

Long-term use of corticosteroids has some harmful side effects. These may include:

Supplements will help to stop these effects on the bone. The supplements may include:

Low-Dose Aspirin

You may be advised take low-dose aspirin every day. This may help to reduce the risk of vision loss associated with temporal arteritis.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent temporal arteritis.


Arthritis Foundation
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology


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Updated March 2014. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Giant cell arteritis (including temporal arteritis). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated June 4, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Karahaliou M, Vaiopoulos G, et al. Colour duplex sonography of temporal arteries before decision for biopsy: a prospective study in 55 patients with suspected giant cell arteritis. Arthritis Res Ther. 2006;8:R116.
Larsson K, Mellström D, et al. Early menopause, low body mass index, and smoking are independent risk factors for developing giant cell arteritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2006;65:529-532.
Parikh M, Miller NR, et al. Prevalence of a normal c-reactive protein with an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate in biopsy-proven giant cell arteritis. Ophthalmology. 2006;113(10):1842-1845.
Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 2012. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Smetana GW, Shmerling RH. Does this patient have temporal arteritis? JAMA. 2002; 287:92.
Yellin AE, DeMeester TR. Department of Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. JAMA Surgery. 2004;139(11):1146-1147.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013

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