We are living in an era when diseases are slowly creeping into our lives and raising major havoc. Talk of different cancers, HIV/AIDS, giant cell arteritis among other fatal diseases that you cannot even avoid, well apart from HIV that is. With no means of shielding yourself from these diseases, you are only left with one tool for protection: information.

Once you are well versed with these diseases, you will be able to notice them, even smell them from a distance and get treatment before they progress. It is in this regard that this piece has been crafted to take you through the nitty-gritty of giant cell arteritis or GCA as it is commonly abbreviated.

So what is Giant cell arteritis?

This is an autoimmune condition that is generally characterized by the inflammation of arteries in the body. Now, autoimmune conditions are disorders that happen when your immune system fails to recognize your body tissues and start attacking them. You know, like it always attacks those disease causing agents to keep any infections at bay?  Yes that way.

In the case of this disorder, the giant cells will thin out your arteries mostly the ones in the head, the neck and the chest. When this happens, there will be a reduction in the blood flow which will, in turn, lead to things such as:

1.  Blurred vision which can culminate in total blindness

This deterioration in eyesight is usually linked to the inflammation of the arteries that supply the eyes with blood. This means that your eyes will not be getting any nutrient supply. Hence, their functioning will be impaired. This is one of its most fatal effects as the impending blindness cannot be reversed. This is why you should immediately see a doctor when you start getting a blurred or double vision.

2.  Swollen temple arteries

Now, in normal cases, when you touch the sides of your forehead just behind your eyes, you should be able to feel your pulse. However, if these arteries have been affected by the giant cells, they will be painful to touch and no pulse will be noticed.

3. Tender jaw

Chewing for a huge part of your life;  an activity you have always carried out effortlessly. However, when GCA creeps in, you will have difficulties doing this simple action due to the inflammation of your jaws. As a matter of fact, you may have difficulties even trying to open your mouth.

4. Weight loss

With the decreased blood flow plus the difficulty in chewing, your body is likely won’t get its right nutritional supply.  This will mean that your body will have to rely on the fats it has stored up. It is this utilization and deprivation that will eat into your weight loss.

5. Excessive fatigue

Owing to the reduced blood supply, your body will be receiving lesser fueling if you like. This will reduce its working capabilities thus making you tired often.

You can also experience sudden and persistent migraines, fever, scalp tenderness and in the extreme conditions, anemia.

But pray, what are the forces behind this disorder?

Normally, it is possible to pin point the factors that led to a certain disorder. However, this is not the case with Giant Cell Arteritis. Up to this point experts have not been able to fully unravel the mystery of this disease. It is however said to have a connection with Polymyalgia Rheumatica, a condition that usually causes stiffness of joints and difficulty in movement.

These are the same symptoms you will get when you have arthritis and joint pain. Now, GCA is usually linked to PR because most patients who acquire PR end up with GCA. However, even people who are over 50 years and with no PR history can also get this infection due to some unknown environmental factors.

Treatment

This condition is usually managed through the use of drugs called prednisone that help in the reduction of the inflammation. This treatment usually starts on high dosages that are gradually reduced over time. It can take up to ten years before the doctor gives a clean bill of health. This is because these symptoms can recur when you stop the treatment.  Hence, you should only stop taking the medication when your doctor is sure you won’t have a relapse.

Conclusion

Giant Cell Arteritis refers to the inflammation of the arteries that happens when the immune system attacks your arteries. It leads to the thinning of the blood vessels and hence interferes with the supply of blood in the body. It is this reduced supply that will lead to headaches, sore jaws and scalp, weight loss, fatigue and even blindness. Even though its causes are not yet established, it is treatable.

However, it is important to seek medical attention immediately you start experiencing some of the aforementioned symptoms because some extreme impacts like blindness cannot be reversed even through treatment.