On alert for giant cell arteritis

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ALSO KNOWN AS temporal arteritis, giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a chronic vasculitis affecting medium and large vessels, commonly cranial branches of arteries originating from the aortic arch.1,2 Affecting adults age 50 and older, it's the most commonly occurring vasculitis in Western countries, with the highest reported incidence in Scandinavian countries and in the state of Minnesota.3–5 In these populations, which share a Northern European ethnic background, GCA has an annual incidence of approximately 20/100,000 in adults over age 50.6
GCA has a predisposition for cranial branches of both the external and internal carotid artery, including the superficial temporal and ophthalmic arteries (see Superficial temporal arteries: Targets for GCA).7 Irreversible blindness, the most feared complication of GCA, can be prevented if the disorder is treated immediately, even before confirmed diagnosis. Consequently, GCA is a medical emergency.6,8 This article reviews pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management of GCA.
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