What is Temporal Arteritis or Horton's Arthritis?

Temporal arteritis is also known as giant cell arteritis. In fact, it is also called Horton's arteritis. It is a vasculitis of large caliber arteries. That is, it consists of an inflammation of the blood vessels.

It is a systemic disease. However, it mainly affects one or several branches of the carotid arteries. In particular, to the temporal arteries, hence its name. Temporary arteritis is the most common vasculitis in adults. It usually affects people over 50 years old. In this article we explain what it is.

Why is temporal arteritis produced?

What happens in temporal arteritis is that the lining of the arteries becomes inflamed. This causes them to swell, reducing the amount of blood circulating in the vessel.

The causes of inflammation of these arteries are unknown. It is believed to be the product of an abnormal attack of the immune system on the arterial walls. In addition, it seems that the disorder has some genetic influence. There is probably a genetic predisposition to suffer it.

Cell aging may also be involved in its pathogenesis. Elastin, when altered, could stimulate the immune system, which is the protagonist.

Risk factor's

There are certain factors that could influence the development of temporal arteritis:

  • Age: usually affects adults over 50 years.
  • The race. Temporary arteritis is more common in the white race
  • To be a woman. Women are almost twice as likely to suffer it.
  • Family background. As we mentioned, there could be a genetic predisposition.


The predominant symptom in temporal arteritis is the headache. It usually occurs at the temples. It also highlights the sensitivity in the hair of this area. The pain does not follow a fixed pattern. It can progressively worsen, appear and disappear, or even temporarily diminish. There are other symptoms that may appear:

  • General malaise and fever.
  • Muscle pains. They can occur in the arm, in the neck, in the jaw, and so on. In the jaw usually occurs when chewing.
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Vision problems. Thus, the patient may suffer double or blurred vision. You can even suffer blindness.
  • Joint stiffness

Some symptoms, such as stiffness or pain in shoulders and hips, they are related to polymyalgia rheumatica. It is a disorder that is confused with temporal arteritis.

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Diagnosis of temporal arteritis

Horton's arteritis It is not easy to diagnose. First, we must rule out other pathologies with similar symptoms. It is essential to carry out a good clinical history.

Further, the doctor must perform a thorough physical examination. You will find palpation sensitivity in the temporal arteries. It is also perceived that the pulse is reduced.

But nevertheless, It is advisable to perform complementary tests. Ideally, perform a blood test first. In it, C-reactive protein is valued more closely. It is a substance that rises in blood when there is an inflammatory process.

You can also perform image tests. Positron emission tomography stands out. With it you can see the areas of inflammation. Similarly, Doppler ultrasound and magnetic resonance angiography are used. With Doppler ultrasound images of blood flow are obtained. In addition, it is a minimally invasive test.

But nevertheless, The best method to confirm the diagnosis is the biopsy. A sample is taken from the temporal artery. For this, local anesthesia is used. The sample is analyzed in the laboratory. If the patient suffers from temporal arteritis, cells with a large size will be observed.

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The main treatment is based on the administration of corticosteroids. Mainly, prednisone is used. In fact, it is usually used before confirming the diagnosis. Normally, the symptoms improve after a few days. However, the duration of the treatment is one or two years. The dose of prednisone should be gradually decreased during this period.

In the same way, it is important to know that Corticosteroids have numerous side effects. These include osteoporosis, high blood pressure and weakness. To counteract these effects, there are a series of measures:

  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol in excess.
  • Take calcium and vitamin D. This should be prescribed by the doctor.
  • In addition, it is necessary to do bone mineral density tests.

In conclusion we can say that Temporal arteritis is a complex pathology. For this reason, it is necessary to know their symptoms and see a doctor whenever there is any doubt.