In temporal arteritis there is a chronic inflammation of medium and large arteries in the head, particularly in the temporal region. These are the arteries that form the aortic arch. These arteries supply a flow of oxygenated blood to the head and brain. The temporal arteries are the most affected as the name suggests. Larger arteries may also be affected. When these arteries become inflamed, the condition is known as “vascultis”. These are the arteries closest to the eyes and may have a serious impact on the eyes due the inflammation. As the condition progresses, symptoms occurring may be, headaches, pain in the jaw, and a start of changes in the vision.
The symptoms caused by temporal arteritis are very similar to those encountered in polymyalgia rheumatica. Waiting too long to start a treatment program can cause serious consequences. At the first indication of any symptoms, the individual must see their healthcare provider who will perform various tests to arrive at a definitive diagnosis. Among the various blood tests that will be performed, the one that can prove to be most helpful is the sedimentation rate. This test is also known as the sedrate. If the patient also displays the pain and headaches of possible temporal arteritis, it would be advisable to see an ophthalmologist as well. Another of the blood tests performed is called ESR. There can of course be other tests depending on the course of the condition. The patient exhibiting symptoms of temporal arteritis may require an arterial biopsy in order to have a final definitive diagnosis. This condition often affects those 40 to 50 years of age, but can affect other age groups as well. It will also affect women more than men on a 4:1 ratio.
This condition is usually generally treated with corticosteroids. The patient with this syndrome will usually be started on cortisone (prednisone) immediately on a daily basis, and will only be reduced when symptoms subside. Patients, who have temporal arteritis and do not exhibit symptoms of this syndrome, will usually be treated with other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Anyone affected with polymyalgia rheumatica and possibly temporal arteritis, may be able to find relief from the pain and discomfort, and should not depend on drugs alone to find this relief. There are several things they can do to make themselves more comfortable and possibly get off the drugs sooner. It is most important that the patient gets enough rest so the body is not overtaxed, and the involved muscles will be able to relax. Hot showers can be extremely helpful to relax the muscles and relieve the pain. A heating pad used 3 to 4 times daily on the affected painful muscles can also be very beneficial. Using a good analgesic gel on the painful areas, 3 to 4 times daily can help control the pain. What is most important is that the individual recognize the seriousness of their symptoms and do something about it, first, by seeking help from their healthcare provider, and, second, by following his/her advice.
Following the above advice for self-help can help shorten the course of this condition. Above all these symptoms should not be ignored, and they should not feel that this is something that will eventually go away by itself. This type of thinking can prove to be very serious in it’s ramifications, possibly leading to blindness if treatment is not started soon enough. The individual must see their healthcare provider on a regular basis to ascertain the status of their condition.