Giant cell arteritis (GCA)

The most serious complication of GCA is irreversible vision loss due to optic nerve ischaemia. Therefore early recognition and treatment are essential.

What is Giant Cell Arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also commonly known as temporal arteritis, is an inflammatory condition affecting the blood vessels. The inflammation causes swelling and restriction of blood flow giving rise to a variety of symptoms.

GCA is closely associated with another condition called polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) which causes aching and stiffness in the joints, most notably the shoulders, neck and hips. These two conditions are frequently present together.

Who is affected?

GCA affects older adults, generally over 50 years of age and commonly those aged between 70 and 80 years. It more commonly affects women. It is also more common in white than non-white people.


Symptoms can include the very classic symptoms noted below and / or more general symptoms that could be attributable to a number of conditions.

Classic symptoms include:

  • Headaches / pain above the eye
  • Scalp and or temple tenderness
  • Jaw pain when eating or talking
  • Visual disturbance e.g blurring or double vision
  • Neck or shoulder pain

More general symptoms include, fever, weight loss and tiredness and there may be polymyalgic symptoms as noted above.


Diagnosis is suspected on clinical assessment of signs and symptoms. Blood tests will also be undertaken including tests for inflammatory markers. Biopsy of the temporal artery provides confirmation of the diagnosis.


Glucocorticosteroids (steroids) are the gold standard for the treatment of GCA and should be started as soon as the diagnosis is suspected.

If there is any evidence to suggest the eyes or vision are affected, then the steroids should be administered intravenously.

Medical Negligence

Moore Barlow has considerable experience in dealing with cases involving a delay in diagnosing GCA.

If you are concerned about the treatment that you, or a loved one, has received for GCA, please do not hesitate to contact our expert team for an initial free and no obligation discussion.

Further information and support

For more information and support with GCA and PMR, visit the Polymyalgia Rheumatica & Giant Cell Arteritis UK website or click here.

Giant cell arteritis factsheet

The most serious complication of GCA is irreversible vision loss due to optic nerve ischaemia. Early recognition and treatment are essential.

Contact our expert medical negligence solicitors if you want to find out more about compensation claims.