Giant cell arteritis


Americans are estimated to have giant cell arteritis.

Age 50

of the patient population with bursitis is male.

19 in 100K

The annual incidence of GCA in the US is estimated to be 18.9 per 100,000.

What is giant cell arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an autoimmune condition. Autoimmune conditions occur when the body’s immune system mistakes its own tissues for foreign invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. The confused immune system springs into action, seeking out to destroy the “invaders” in the tissues.

The immune system of people with GCA mistakenly attacks the lining of healthy blood vessels, also called arteries. This results in inflammation and swelling, which makes your blood vessels more narrow and then makes it more difficult for blood to travel to your body’s tissues.

Swelling caused by GCA most often occurs in the head and neck, and results in pain, tenderness, and stiffness in those areas.

Who is affected?

It is very rare that you will be diagnosed with giant cell arteritis if you are younger than 50 years old. The condition generally affects older individuals, with the average age of diagnosis at 72 years old. [1] Women have a higher risk of developing GCA when compared with men. [2]

There isn’t a single cause of giant cell arteritis, but there are a number of factors that might make you more at risk of developing the condition. Some of these factors include family history and other medical conditions such as polymyalgia rheumatica. [1]

What happens in your body?

Common symptoms of giant cell arteritis include: [1] [3] [4]

  • Headache and severe head pain, usually in the temple area
  • Tenderness of the scalp
  • Jaw pain when chewing or opening your mouth widely
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Throat or tongue pain
  • Blurred vision, double vision, or vision loss

How do I know if I have giant cell arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other conditions, so it can take some time to diagnose it. But it is important to visit your primary care doctor and get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible to make sure that the condition does not worsen.

Some ways that your doctor can assess whether you have the condition is through reviewing your medical history, conducting a physical examination, asking about your symptoms, and administering medical tests (such as blood tests, imaging tests, and biopsies).