Have you heard of Giant Cell Arteritis?

This form of inflammation is found in the blood vessels in the area of your temple, head and neck;  so it can also be called temporal arteritis.  It usually occurs with a significant headache in people over the age of 50 often in the temporal area and there may be vision changes and jaw pain with chewing.  It is usually a result of the immune system being triggered to inapproriately generate infllmation in areas where the lining of blood vessels could have some damage. There is an immediate need to be seen in the emergency department, where the steroid prednisone is commonly given to quickly reduce inflammation and to preserve blood flow – especially to the eyes.  If left untreated, permanent vison loss could occur.  MRI and biopsies of the area can also be done to confirm the diagnosis.  Sometimes the headache can be accompanied by a generalized sudden arthritis occuring simulatneously in multiple joints.  This sydrome called polymyalgia rheumatica is not uncommon in older people and is also treated with prednisione even without the involvement of arteries in the temple.

Ultimately, if you ever experience severe sudden headache, esecially pain in the temple and if vision changes occur or you have jaw pain, this is a medical emergency. If you have a sudden unexplained onset of arthritis in multiple joints with severe stiffness and pain you must also seek medical attention.  It is always best to be on the side of caution!

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