What Is Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA)?


Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a condition in which the lining of the arteries become inflamed. This inflammation causes the arteries to narrow, which restricts blood flow to affected areas. Because GCA most commonly affects the arteries in the temples of the head, it is also known as cranial or temporal arteritis.


Signs and symptoms of GCA include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Persistent, severe head pain, often centered around the temples
  • Severe headaches
  • Tenderness of the scalp and temples
  • Jaw pain (especially when chewing or opening the mouth)
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Pain around the eyes
  • Double vision, blurred vision, or color changes in vision
  • Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica


The exact cause of giant cell arteritis is unknown. It is thought to occur as a result of abnormal attacks by the immune system on artery walls. Genetic and environmental factors may also contribute to the development of the condition.

Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of developing GCA include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Age 55 or older (most common between 70‒80 years of age)
  • Female
  • Preexisting polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Family history of GCA
  • Ethnicity (most common among Caucasian people in Northern European populations or individuals of Scandinavian descent)
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