Temporal Arteritis is a medical condition where some of the arteries in the brain become inflamed, resulting in a painful headache. Advanced ages as well as some medications like antibiotics increase the risk of developing the condition.
What is Temporal Arteritis?
Temporal arteritis sometimes referred to as giant cell arteritis or cranial arteritis affects the arteries located in the temporal region of the head. Arteritis is a condition where blood vessels become inflamed. In this type of arteritis it is the arteries in the temple region of the head (temporal arteries) that become inflamed. The temporal arteries are important as they are responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to various parts of the brain. The results of the arteritis or inflammation is a damaged cell wall that can no longer efficiently transport blood causing localized pain and decreased arterial blood flow. The end result is a painful temporal lobe-centered headache.
Causes of Cranial Arteritis may Include Antibiotics
The exact cause of the condition is largely unknown but there are some risk factors that seem to indicate its onset. The risk factors include age (it is commonly diagnosed in the older population who are more susceptible to inflammation responses), and high doses of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and diuretics. Therefore, a medication overdose causing temporal arteritis is feasible. It is, however, important to point out the gray area regarding the cause of the disease: whether the condition is caused by the medication or the condition requires the medication.
The first and foremost symptom of giant cell arteritis is a severe and throbbing pain that is localized to the temple region. In some cases the temporal artery can be seen to be bulging. The headache is sometimes accompanied by other nonspecific symptoms such as fever, cough, throat and jaw pain, loss of appetite, stiffness in the neck or shoulders, affected vision, and night sweats.
The doctor may order blood tests to check for abnormalities in hemoglobin levels, check on liver function and c-reactive proteins. The most definitive way to diagnose the condition is through a biopsy. The doctor will remove a portion of the temporal artery and send it off to the lab to be examined for abnormalities.
Other tests that may be performed to diagnose the condition include:
- An angiograph, a test where the doctor threads a catheter through the vessels and uses a contrasting dye to visualize changes,
- Arterial Doppler, a painless noninvasive technique that uses sound waves to test for changes in blood pressure caused by the change in the artery,
- Computerized Tomography Scan (CT Scan), a technique that produces cross sectional views of internal organs,
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI); uses radio waves and magnetic fields to create images of the arteries, and
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which uses a small amount of radioactive material to signal changes in the artery size.
Treatment is geared to reducing damage to the temporal artery and to stop damage caused by oxygen deprivation. Prescribed medications include steroids to help reduce the inflammation, aspirin to thin the blood, and in some cases immunosuppressant drugs are prescribed (especially in cases where the condition is brought about by an autoimmune disease).
The condition is treatable, and most people will recover from the associated symptoms. It is important to seek treatment because complications can develop. These complications include irreversible vision loss, damage to blood vessels, TIA (transient ischemic attack, or mini-stroke), and strokes.