Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Don't blow off symptoms as "aging"

Temporal arteritis is inflammation and damage to blood vessels that supply the head area, particularly the large or medium arteries that branch from the neck.

If the inflammation affects the arteries in your neck, upper body and arms, it is called giant cell arteritis.

Temporal, giant cell, and cranial arteritis occur when one or more arteries become inflamed and die.

It most commonly occurs in the head, especially in the temporal arteries that branch off from a blood vessel in the neck called the carotid artery. However, the condition can be a body-wide (systemic) disorder, affecting many medium-to-large sized arteries anywhere in the body.

The cause is unknown but is believed to be partly due to a faulty immune response*. The disorder has been associated with severe infections and high doses of antibiotics.

The disorder may develop along with or after polymyalgia rheumatica. Giant cell arteritis is seen almost exclusively in those over 50 years old, but may occasionally occur in younger people. It is rare in people of African descent. There is some evidence that it runs in families.

* Excessive sweating
* Fever
* General ill feeling
* Jaw pain, intermittent or when chewing
* Loss of appetite
* Muscle aches
* Throbbing headache on one side of the head or the back of the head
* Scalp sensitivity, tenderness when touching the scalp
* Vision difficulties
o Blurred vision
o Double vision
o Reduced vision (blindness in one or both eyes)
* Weakness, excessive tiredness
* Weight loss (more than 5% of total body weight)

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

* Bleeding gums
* Face pain
* Hearing loss
* Joint stiffness
* Joint pain
* Mouth sores

About 40% of people will have other nonspecific symptoms such as respiratory complaints (most frequently dry cough) or weakness or pain along many nerve areas. Rarely, paralysis of eye muscles may occur. A persistent fever may be the only symptom.

* The immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are molecules (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Nonliving substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can also be antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys substances that contain these antigens.


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