What are the symptoms of giant cell arteritis (GCA)?
People with giant cell arteritis (GCA) may have a number of different symptoms. Most people will experience some, but not all, of these symptoms.
The most common symptoms of GCA are:
- headache, with severe pain and tenderness over the temples and the scalp – it may be painful to brush your hair or shave
- thickening or tenderness of the blood vessels at your temples
- pain in the jaw or tongue when chewing (claudication)
- flu-like symptoms, night sweats or fever
- weight loss
- rarely, loss of vision – this can occur suddenly and may be only partial, but can sometimes be total. It’s usually temporary in the early stages, but without treatment loss of vision can become permanent
- double vision.
You should see your doctor urgently (contact the out-of-hours service if necessary) if you have visual disturbance or pain in the jaw or tongue. These symptoms suggest that you may be at greater risk of sight loss unless you receive prompt treatment.
Less commonly, GCA can affect other large blood vessels that could lead to pain when using the arm muscles or in the calves when walking. Occasionally, GCA can cause strokes or mini-strokes (also known as transient ischaemic attacks or TIAs).
People with GCA often have symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), with pain, stiffness and tenderness in the muscles of their shoulders, arms, hips and legs, especially in the mornings.