Giant Cell Arteritis and Vision: What You Need To Know

Good day and a warm welcome from our team here at Sight Research UK! If you're on this page, chances are you're looking for details about Giant Cell Arteritis, particularly how it might affect your eyesight or that of someone you love. Rest assured, you've come to the right place.

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What Is Giant Cell Arteritis and How Does it Impact Vision?

Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA), also known as temporal arteritis, or Horton's arteritis, is an inflammatory condition affecting the large arteries in your head, especially those around your temples. It is a rare, but serious condition. Crucially for our community, it can severely affect the blood supply to the eyes and lead to sudden vision loss, and if not treated quickly it can also cause other serious problems such as stroke, or aneurysm (ballooning blood vessel that may burst). 


Warning Signs to Watch For: Symptoms of Giant Cell Arteritis

Key early signs

Symptoms depend on which arteries are affected but the most common ones are:

  • frequent, severe headaches that are throbbing and continuous, on one or both sides of the forehead
  • cramp-like pain in the jaw while eating or talking
  • pain or tenderness at the temples (side of the head) or on the scalp
  • pain around the eyes
  • problems with vision such as vision loss in 1 or both eyes, blurry vision, or double vision.

Other early symptoms can resemble those of other common conditions, which can make GCA difficult to diagnose. These symptoms include unintentional weight loss, flu-like symptoms, depression, tiredness, and night sweats.

What concerns us most here is the abrupt, painless loss of vision that some people experience. This could occur in one or both eyes, and it's often a sign that immediate medical intervention is needed.

If you think you might have GCA ask for an urgent GP appointment or call NHS 111 or get help from 111 online.

Understanding the Root Causes of Giant Cell Arteritis

Though the exact cause of GCA remains unknown, several factors like age, genetics, and other autoimmune conditions might increase the risk. It is a relatively rare condition, affecting around 5 people in 10,000. It is more common in individuals over the age of 50, and affects more women than men.

Giant Cell Arteritis Diagram, 2022.

Treatment Options: Managing Giant Cell Arteritis Effectively

Immediate treatment is crucial, especially to protect your vision. A high dose of corticosteroids is generally administered to reduce inflammation. Since GCA is a long-term condition, you may be on medication for 1 to 2 years, and regular check-ups are essential. 

What Else Should You Know About Giant Cell Arteritis?

Information is your best ally in managing GCA.  Immediate attention to symptoms, regular screenings, and a long-term care plan are essential. We're working tirelessly to fund research into conditions like this, with the hope of making vision loss a thing of the past.