Understanding Arteritis: Symptoms, Causes, and Management
1. Arteritis Overview:Arteritis, also known as "temporal arteritis" or "arterial stenosis," is a condition characterized by inflammation and swelling of the arteries. This inflammation leads to the narrowing of arteries, reducing blood supply to nearby organs' tissues.
While arteries in any part of the body can be affected, the temples are most commonly involved, leading to the alternative name "giant cell arteritis." If left untreated, there is a risk of blindness due to the involvement of arteries supplying blood to the eyes.
2. Demographics:This condition typically affects individuals over 50, with women being more susceptible than men. Risk factors can be minimized through informed consultation with a healthcare professional.
3. Common Symptoms:People with arteritis commonly experience severe headaches, particularly in the temples. Additional symptoms may include:
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, fatigue, headache, joint stiffness, muscle pain)
- Reduced or double vision
- Scalp tenderness
- Pain in the jaw or tongue during chewing or speaking
- Unexplained weight loss
4. When to Seek Medical Attention:Consult a doctor or visit the hospital if experiencing:
- Loss or change in vision
- No improvement in symptoms within about a week
- New onset headache with fever or pain during chewing
- Early and regular treatment is essential for those diagnosed to prevent permanent blindness.
5. Causes of Arteritis:The exact cause remains unclear, but scientists speculate that an incorrect immune system response to encountered infections triggers the inflammation of blood vessel linings. This autoimmune response can potentially be hereditary.
6. Risk Factors:Factors increasing the risk of temporal arteritis include:
- Age: Primarily affects individuals over 70, rarely occurring in those under 50
- Gender: Women are twice as likely to develop giant cell arteritis
- Polymyalgia Rheumatica: About 15% of people with this condition also have giant cell arteritis
- Having no specific risk factors does not eliminate the possibility of the disease.
7. Effective Treatment:Corticosteroid medication, particularly prednisone, is prescribed to prevent vision loss. Symptoms typically improve within days, but persistent medication use for 1 to 2 years or longer is often necessary. Vitamin D and calcium supplements may be recommended to counter corticosteroid side effects, with periodic bone density checks.
8. Diagnostic Methods:In addition to symptom evaluation and a physical examination, diagnostic methods may include:
Blood tests (erythrocyte sedimentation rate)
Temporal artery biopsy
Positron emission tomography (PET)
9. Suitable Living Regime:Adopting certain habits and a healthy lifestyle can help manage arteritis effectively:
- Adhere to prescribed medication use
- Report any medication side effects to the doctor
- Follow a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables while reducing salt and sugar intake
- Engage in regular physical activity
For personalized advice on the best treatment support, consult your doctor, addressing any questions or concerns you may have.