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Giant Cell Arteritis

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Giant Cell Arteritis

(GCA; Temporal Arteritis)


Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is swelling of the arteries. The most common are the small and medium sized arteries in the head.

Temporal arteritis is a form of GCA. The temporal artery runs over the side of the head to the outer eye. This needs care right away to prevent vision loss or a stroke.

Temporal Arteritis.

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What causes GCA is not known. The immune system attacks healthy arteries. This causes swelling. It is not known what causes the immune system to do this.

Risk Factors

GCA is more common in women and in people at least 50 years of age. It is also more common in people of northern European descent. Other things that raise the risk are:


A person with GCA may have:

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of hunger and weight loss
  • Joint or muscle aches
  • Headaches or pain in the scalp, jaw, or tongue
  • Eyesight problems


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam and eye exam may be done.

Tests include:

  • Blood tests—to look for inflammation and rule out other causes
  • Biopsy of the temporal artery
  • Ultrasound

These are used to confirm the diagnosis of GCA.

Other imaging may also be done such as MRI, PET scan, and CAT scan.


Treatment will begin as soon as GCA is suspected. It may involve:

  • Corticosteroids—to reduce swelling
  • Medicines to change how the immune system works


GCA cannot be prevented.





  • Giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/giant-cell-arteritis-and-polymyalgia-rheumatica/.
  • Giant cell arteritis (including temporal arteritis). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/giant-cell-arteritis-including-temporal-arteritis.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/polymyalgia-rheumatica-giant-cell-arteritis.
  • Uppal, S., Hadi, M., et al. Updates in the diagnosis and management of giant cell arteritis. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep, 2019; 19 (9): 68.


  • Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.