Giant Cell Arteritis
My general practitioner called me up and he said ‘I think it’s giant cell arteritis, you could go blind’. I’ve told doctors I can handle a lot of stuff but I can’t handle going blind.
This is the reality of giant cell arteritis - GCA - a ‘silent’ disease of the immune system that most people have never heard of, which can strike without warning and rob people of their sight in days.1
For decades, patients, doctors and scientists have been waging a war against this little-understood condition, which remains incurable. Its exact cause is still not yet known and because it triggers a host of non-specific symptoms – from severe headaches and scalp tenderness to jaw pain and visual problems – it is difficult to diagnose.1 If left untreated, GCA can lead to blindness, aortic aneurysm or stroke.1 When it is finally diagnosed, it is a medical emergency and patients are treated with high-dose steroids for a number of months to bring it under control and prevent sight loss.2
GCA at a glance
GCA is a debilitating condition caused by inflammation of large and medium-sized arteries.1,2 The exact cause of GCA is unknown1
GCA affects adults over 50 years old1
At least twice as many women are affected by GCA as men1
There were no new treatments for GCA for more than 50 years2
Despite the disease’s complexity, continuing research has substantially increased our overall understanding of the chronic and potentially life-threatening condition.3 Yet for almost 70 years, the only treatment option for GCA sufferers has been long-term steroids, which commonly cause severe side effects.2
It can be difficult to diagnose because there are lots of other competing illnesses that a doctor has to think about in order to tease out a diagnosis of GCA.
There have been several attempts in the past to identify a new treatment option which could not only control the disease, but spare patients from the high doses of steroids. Unfortunately many of these attempts failed.2
But the fight continues, as researchers discover more and more about GCA and its complex causes within the body.
- 1. Bhat S, et al. Giant cell arteritis. Midlife and Beyond, GM. Rheumatology. 2010; 071-079.
- 2. Ponte C, et al. Giant cell arteritis: Current treatment and management. World J Clin Cases, 2015; 3(6): 484-494.
- 3. Hunder G. History of giant cell arteritis (GCA) polymyalgia rheumatic (PMR). Rheumatology. 2005; 44(suppl 3): iii1.