Giant cell arteritis is a type of inflammation in the blood vessels. It can cause symptoms such as headaches, neck or facial pain, and blindness.
At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, our surgeons in the Division of Vascular Surgery are experts in treating giant cell arteritis. We take a team approach to diagnose your condition and design a treatment plan that’s right for you.
To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:
Giant cell arteritis is a rare type of vasculitis, or inflammation in the blood vessels.
It's most common in the large arteries of the body, including the temporal arteries of the scalp and head, but can affect other arteries.
The condition gets its name from the appearance of “giant” cells in biopsies of temporal arteries.
While the cause of giant cell arteritis is unknown, doctors believe the following play a role in causing it:
Some risk factors of giant cell arteritis can include:
Giant cell arteritis symptoms can include:
In some cases, symptoms may also include:
If left untreated, giant cell arteritis can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications like permanent blindness and stroke.
Giant cell arteritis can be a challenge to diagnose. Its symptoms can be similar to those of other health problems.
To diagnose giant cell arteritis, your UPMC vascular surgeon will:
He or she may also use the following tests to confirm a giant cell arteritis diagnosis:
Treatment for giant cell arteritis usually includes steroid medication to reduce inflammation.
Often, your UPMC vascular surgeon will start you out with a high dose of steroids and gradually decrease to lower doses.
Most people improve quickly once they begin treatment.
You will need to remain on steroids for at least 1 to 2 years following a giant cell arteritis diagnosis. In some cases, you may need longer-term treatment.
Also, giant cell arteritis can recur even after treatment.