Temporal arteritis

Temporal arteritis (giant cell arteritis) is where the arteries, particularly those at the side of the head (the temples), become inflamed. It's serious and needs urgent treatment.

Symptoms of temporal arteritis

The symptoms of temporal arteritis depend on which arteries are affected.

The main symptoms are:

More general symptoms are also common – for example, flu-like symptoms, unintentional weight loss, depression and tiredness.

About 2 in 5 people with temporal arteritis also develop polymyalgia rheumatica. This causes pain, stiffness and inflammation in the muscles around the shoulders, neck and hips.

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you think you might have temporal arteritis

It can lead to serious problems like stroke and blindness if not treated quickly.

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help

Get an urgent GP appointment

A GP may be able to help you.

Ask your GP surgery for an urgent appointment.

What happens at your appointment

The GP will ask you about your symptoms and examine your temples.

After having some blood tests, you'll be referred to a specialist.

They may carry out further tests to help diagnose temporal arteritis.

You may have:

If you have problems with your vision, you should have a same-day appointment with an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) at a hospital eye department.

Treatment for temporal arteritis

Temporal arteritis is treated with steroid medicine, usually prednisolone.

Treatment will be started before temporal arteritis is confirmed because of the risk of vision loss if it's not dealt with quickly.

There are 2 stages of treatment:

  1. An initial high dose of steroids for a few weeks to help bring your symptoms under control.
  2. A lower steroid dose (after your symptoms have improved) given over a longer period of time, possibly several years.

A small number of people may need to take steroids for the rest of their life.

You'll have regular follow-ups to see how you're doing and check for any side effects you may have.

Steroids

Do not suddenly stop taking steroids unless your doctor tells you to. Stopping a prescribed course of medicine could make you very ill.

Other treatments

Other types of medicine you may need if you have temporal arteritis include:

Page last reviewed: 18 November 2020
Next review due: 18 November 2023