Temporal Arteritis

Temporal arteries are the blood vessels around the temple (side of the head behind the eyes) that supply blood to the head and brain. Temporal arteritis is a condition in which these blood vessels are damaged or inflamed. The condition may be caused by a faulty immune response, high doses of antibiotics or severe infections. The condition is characterised by reduced, double or blurred vision, sudden and permanent loss of sight, drooping eyelid, throbbing headache and flu-like symptoms.

Initial diagnosis includes physical examination of the head, followed by blood tests. A definite diagnosis is made with a biopsy – studying a sample of the suspected artery in the laboratory. Imaging tests such as MRI, ultrasound scans and PET scan (positron emission tomography scan) may also be ordered. Early diagnosis is imperative for successful treatment. Temporal arteritis cannot be reversed but can be reduced by minimising the damage caused to tissues by the inadequate blood flow. Your doctor prescribes corticosteroids or immunosuppressive medications for immediate use, which need to be taken for about a year or two. However, this treatment may have adverse effects on your bones over a period. To avoid these effects, it is better to take a few precautions, such as avoiding alcohol and smoking, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements, and having your bones examined.