Cranial arteritis (giant-cell or temporal arteritis) is an inflammatory condition that causes damage to blood vessels which supply blood to the head, specifically the large or medium arteries that branch from the neck. In many cases this disease can affect not only the cranial arteries, but also other blood vessels in upper body, neck and arms; therefore the name “giant-cell arteritis”. Most cases of cranial arteritis are found in people over 50 years of age.
The exact cause of the temporal arteritis is unknown to conventional medicine, however it is suspected to be a result of the abnormal immune system due to some hereditary and environmental factors. Autoimmune disease presents itself when the body gets it wires crossed and starts attacking its own cells all the way “thinking” it’s attacking enemy cells.
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Cranial arteritis symptoms:
Most common symptoms are as follows:
- Fever, exaggerated sweating
- Pain in the whole body including: head, neck, shoulders, hips, muscles, joints
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Jaw and tongue pain while chewing
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Vision problems such as: blurred or double vision, or even reduced or loss of vision
- Mouth sores and bleeding gums
- Respiratory difficulties such as dry cough, nerve pain
When the symptoms occur, the doctor will need to do some tests, including examination of your head. If the artery on the side has weak pulse and is sensitive and weak, the doctor should do some blood tests, such as:
Cranial arteritis tests:
- Liver function tests (to measure various chemicals in the blood made by the liver)
- Sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein (used to detect inflammation)
- Also tests to measure platelets (or thrombocytes), and hemoglobin
If these tests indicate any abnormalities, biopsy is usually done to confirm the diagnosis of temporal arteritis. Other tests may also be needed, such as magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI), positron emission tomography (or PET) scan, and computed tomography (or CT) scan.
Cranial arteritis treatment:
Conventional treatment for temporal arteritis is mostly concentrated on reduction of tissue damage, which is a result of insufficient blood flow. Corticosteroids (mainly prednisone) are prescribed; sometimes even before the complete diagnosis of the disease; in order to reduce the inflammation. Aspirin may in some cases be advised as well.
Cranial arteritis patients can make full recovery with the right treatment. However, recurrence is possible. This disease, if not treated, can bring complications such as reduced vision (specifically bilateral blindness), or complete vision loss; damage to the other blood vessels, development of aneurysms, transient ischemic attack or even a stroke.
Breakthrough in cranial arteritis research