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How is temporal arteritis treated ?

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Internal Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 1998
Answered : 1579 Questions
I have intermittant pain the my temples, with some noticeable swelling of the arteries, but no major headache today, but i have had constant headache pain for weeks. Since I am a migraine sufferer, I haven't take any special notice, but lately I have a different headache sensations, such as pain across the forehead, throbbing temples, and sometimes when I read for long periods of time (fixated on a computer screen), I notice extreme blurring in my right eye, which is also the side of the head where the arteries are most visible. I am a 52 year old women in satisfactory health, without chronic ailments/meds, aside from headaches. At what point is it necessary to go for emergency care? What is a "new" headache? Is it excruciating pain?
Posted Fri, 4 May 2012 in Headache and Migraines
Answered by Dr. Jasvinder Singh 55 minutes later
Hello Potterwilkes,

Thanks for posting your query.

From the symptoms that you have described, two important possibilities occur to my mind.

One is of Refractive errors of the eye due to reading and computer strain and the second, a Temporal Arteritis.

Temporal arteritis is an inflammation or vasculitis of blood vessels of the large and medium arteries of the head especially the temporal artery that branch off from the carotid artery in the neck.

Also called giant cell arteritis, it is more common in women and presents as swelling and throbbing in the temples.

If temporal arteritis is suspected then a biopsy of the vessel may need to be done for confirming the diagnosis.

You also need to get a MRI head done to rule out any neurological cause.

It is not an emergency but you can consult a neurologist and get it done.

The new headache can be due to any of these reasons or due to tension or worsening of migraine headache.

If possible, turn off the overhead fluorescent lights and use floor lamps that provide indirect incandescent or halogen lighting instead on the computer screen.

If you wear glasses, purchase lenses with anti-reflective (AR) coating.

Also adjust the display settings on your computer so the brightness of the screen is about the same as your work environment.

Also to reduce your risk of tiring your eyes by constantly focusing on your screen, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object.

Also take frequent breaks during your computer work day.

Hope this answers your query. If you have additional questions or follow up queries then please do not hesitate in writing to us. I will be happy to answer your queries.

Wishing you good health.


Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: How is temporal arteritis treated ? 37 hours later
Thank you for your reply. I have An appt this week with my internist. I was told by an urgent care physician assisanf that, if the condition is temporal arteritis the arteries that would not disappear, but would remain visible. Is that correct? Also does approx 800 to 1200 my of an NSAID help reduce any further inflammation of the temporal arteries? I am concerned because the vision issue .
Follow-up: How is temporal arteritis treated ? 6 minutes later
Additionally, I was prescribed a muscle relaxer, Flexiril 5mg, which I am to take bedtime. Is this a medcation that is beneficial temporal arteritis?
Answered by Dr. Jasvinder Singh 11 hours later

Thanks for writing back. I can understand your concern for vision issues and blindness.

What happens is that with Giant Cell Arteritis the medium-sized blood vessels become swollen. The most common artery to swell is the temporal artery that provides blood to the optic nerve.

Hutchinson originally described the condition as inflamed and swollen temporal arteries which sometimes patient can feel and see the swollen temporal arteries under the skin. Sometimes the temporal artery swells to such an extent that it can be seen around your eye, this too is tender to touch. However in most cases only tenderness of scalp is seen. So it is not compulsory that you see the swollen arteries.

NSAID's is not the first line of management and corticosteroids, typically high-dose prednisone , must be started as soon as the diagnosis is suspected (even before the diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy).

Flexeril is a muscle relaxant which is useful in acute, painful musculoskeletal conditions. It is not very useful in temporal arteritis.

I suggest you to get an evaluation done from a physician urgently because any new headache in a female patient above 50 years of age, the possibility of temporal arteritis should always be ruled out.

Hope this answers your query. If you have additional questions or follow up queries then please do not hesitate in writing to us. I will be happy to answer your queries.

Wishing you good health.
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