If any of your arteries are chronically inflamed, and that inflammation causes the wall to thicken and decreases the amount of blood that is spreading in the arteries, you suffer from arterial disease.
The disease is called temporal arteritis because it mainly affects the two arteries that pass behind the temples in the head. Temporary or temples arteries are the artery branches that vascularised the head (carotid or neck arteries).
The most common symptom is headache on both sides of the forehead. The artery, from which headaches can occur, can be swollen, red, and painful. Other possible symptoms are slightly elevated temperature, loss of appetite and weight loss, and general muscle pain, though muscle pains are more characteristic of a very similar disease called rheumatic polymorphism.
Temporal arteriitis mainly affects people over 55 years of age. The possibility of getting this disease is growing rapidly with age. Out of 2000 sixty years old approximately one person is affected, while the ratio among eighty years old people is 1 : 125. Women are twice as vulnerable to men.
In severe cases, temporal arterialitis causes stroke, although it usually affects the eyes; 50% of patients have eye disturbances that most often lead to some loss of vision. Before the use of contemporary drug therapy, blindness affected approximately 30% of people.
What to do?
If you suffer from persistent headache, if the headache is accompanied by other symptoms of temporal arterial disease and if you are over 55, you should contact your doctor. Blood tests will show whether temporal arterialitis is the cause of your discomfort. Your doctor may also decide to take a small portion of the temporal artery (under local anesthesia) for microscopic examination and, sometimes, more of these tests are needed. To confirm the diagnosis and determine which part of the artery should be removed, the doctor may (though rarely) require an arteriogram.
Your doctor will probably prescribe an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid agent. You may need to take these tablets in the long run. Regular blood tests will show whether corticosteroids suppress the disease by relieving inflammation of affected arteries. Corticosteroids can cause several side effects, but most of them will not occur due to the dose required for the treatment of temporal arteritis. However, as soon as you start to take this medicine, you should take it regularly until your doctor tells you to lower your dose or stop taking it.
If you talk to a doctor while the disease is in the initial state and you work with him by taking corticosteroids regularly, you will have 75% chances of complete recovery. However, if the disease is not diagnosed at the very initial stage, the odds will not be so favorable.