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What is arteritis? What are its symptoms?

Arteritis, also known as giant cell arteritis, is an inflammation that affects medium and large vessels . Its main consequence is that it causes a narrowing of the arteries, preventing blood from flowing easily.

Normally, arteritis affects people who are over 50 years old and their causes are not defined. Is a hypothesis that is the predisposition that people have to suffer from this disease. In other cases, genetic causes are assumed.

Arteritis of the temporal

This type of arteritis is also known as temporal arteritis , sometimes called cranial arteritis. Its main characteristic is that the inflammation affects the vessels of the scalp, neck and arms. Therefore, it will be in these areas of the body where the first symptoms will manifest.

It is important to mention that diagnosing this disorder is not usually easy . The reasons are that the symptoms that often suffer from people who suffer it can be confused with others that refer to much less serious problems.

What is arteritis? What are its symptoms?

Early diagnosis of arteritis can prevent much more dangerous health problems   and that can significantly affect the health and well-being of the person who suffers it. Some of its possible complications are:

  • Damage to other blood vessels of the body.
  • Development of aneurysms .
  • Stroke.
  • Stroke risk.

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Symptoms of arteritis

Now that we know a little more about this disorder, we are going to address the symptoms we should look at. Some of them, as we already mentioned, can be confused with other types of milder problems. However, in case of any doubt, it is better to go to the doctor to check that everything is fine.


The main symptom of arteritis is pain and this will be present in different ways . Sometimes, it may only be a slight discomfort, in others, we may notice a slight sensitivity. However, these may be subtle notices of the beginning of this disease.

  • Pain in the head : because the arteritis damages the vessels of the scalp can appear pain in the head. Normally, it is strong and persistent, and it affects the area of ​​the temples.
  • Sensitivity in the scalp : we can feel a slight discomfort or pain when pressing the area of ​​the scalp. This can make us think that we have it sensitive, however, it can be a symptom of arteritis. We should look at whether it is accompanied by the previous headache.
  • Pain in the jaw : when yawning, talking or chewing some type of food, even if it is soft, you may feel a slight pain. If we suffer bruxism, we can confuse it with this unconscious habit.
What is arteritis? What are its symptoms?

Sometimes, along with these symptoms, fever may appear . This can make us suspect that we have a flu beginning, which may not be the case. In any case, we must go to our doctor.


Fatigue is another symptom of arteritis that can go completely unnoticed . We may associate it with an excess of physical exercise, a period of too much stress or even a change of season.

However, we must look at whether, in addition to fatigue, we have suffered some weight loss for no apparent reason that can lead us to suffer anemia . These two symptoms, that of fatigue and that of weight loss, can occur individually.

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Loss of vision

Vision loss is one of the most significant symptoms of arteritis . This can occur in only one eye or both. However, before the loss of vision is complete there are some symptoms that will alert us:

  • Vision problems such as diplopia .
  • Paralysis of the eyes.
  • Weakness of the muscles of the eyes.

In case of any symptom, however slight, the doctor will perform the pertinent exams to detect possible inflammation that may indicate that arteritis is present.

It is necessary to emphasize the importance of an early diagnosis to put an end to this disorder. In the case of not going to the doctor as soon as possible and see how the symptoms are evolving one can risk losing sight altogether or suffer a stroke.


  • Hellmann DB. Giant cell arteritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and Takayasu’s arteritis. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, McInnes IB, O’Dell JR, eds. Kelley and Firestein’s Textbook of Rheumatology . 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017: chap 88.
  • Ponte C, Rodrigues AF, O’Neill L, Luqmani RA. Giant cell arteritis: current treatment and management. World J Clin Cases . 2015; 3 (6): 484-494. PMID: 26090367

What is arteritis? What are its symptoms?