Temporal arteries are the blood vessels around the temple (side of the head behind the eyes) that supply blood to the head and brain. Temporal arteritis is a condition in which these blood vessels are damaged or inflamed. The condition is caused by an abnormal immune response. The condition is characterised by reduced, double or blurred vision, sudden and permanent loss of sight, drooping eyelid, throbbing headache, jaw pain, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and flu-like symptoms. It is very uncommon in individuals under 50 years of age.
Initial diagnosis includes physical examination of the head and eyes, followed by blood tests. A definite diagnosis is made with a temporal artery biopsy – studying a sample of the suspected artery in the laboratory. Early diagnosis is imperative for successful treatment. Temporal arteritis cannot be reversed, but can be reduced by minimising the damage caused to tissues by the inadequate blood flow. Your doctor prescribes corticosteroids or immunosuppressive medications for immediate use, which need to be taken for about a year or two or sometimes longer. However, this treatment may have adverse effects on the health of your bones, blood sugar control, blood pressure control and weight gain. To avoid or manage these effects, it is necessary to be co-managed by your ophthalmologist and general practitioner or physician.