What Is Temporal Arteritis?

An estimated 228,000 people in the United States suffer from this condition, but what is temporal arteritis? Temporal arteritis, also known as giant cell arteritis, is a condition that affects the temporal arteries. It occurs when the temporal arteries, which supply blood to the brain, become damaged or inflamed. People over the age of 50, especially women, are more likely to develop temporal arteritis than younger people. Keep reading to discover the symptoms of temporal arteritis, causes, natural remedies, and treatment for temporal arteritis!

What Causes Temporal Arteritis?

No one knows what causes temporal arteritis, but scientists believe that it may be linked to a faulty immune response.

The condition appears to be more common in people of Scandinavian or northern European descent, but it can affect anyone.

Other potential causes include:

  • Certain types of severe infections
  • Excessive doses of antibiotics

Although temporal arteritis is one of the most common types of vascular disorders, it’s still a rare condition. It affects about five out of 10,000 people.

Symptoms of Temporal Arteritis

what is temporal arteritis symptoms of temporal arteritis treatment for temporal arteritis woman with brown hair holding her temples and squinting in pain white tank top white background

Temporal arteritis can cause many symptoms, but the most common is a severe headache on both sides of the forehead. 

Some people may also experience:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Jaw pain that worsens with chewing
  • Vision problems, like temporary blindness and blurry or double vision
  • Tender temples or scalp
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches

According to Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center, fever of unknown origin occurs in 16% of patients over the age of 65.

Up to 30% of people with temporal arteritis develop polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). This inflammatory condition can cause pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and hips.

If you think you may have temporal arteritis, see a doctor immediately. This condition must be treated quickly to avoid serious or life-threatening complications. 

Why Does This Condition Cause Vision Loss?

Temporal arteritis affects your vision because your arteries are narrowed. This makes it more difficult for your body to deliver oxygen-rich blood to affected areas. Temporal arteritis commonly affects the arteries connected to your eyes. When the eye and optic nerve are deprived of oxygen, it can cause permanent injury, which includes vision loss.

Diagnosing Temporal Arteritis

When diagnosing temporal arteritis, doctors look for many things. A physical exam will be the first place to start. Your doctor may check for tenderness in the scalp and take a closer look at the arteries in your head. 

Blood tests can also be helpful in diagnosing this condition, such as:

  • Liver function tests: Checks to make sure that your liver is functioning properly.
  • Hemoglobin: Measures your blood’s hemoglobin levels, which is a protein that supplies oxygen.
  • Hematocrit: Measures your red blood cell count.
  • C-reactive protein: High amounts of this protein indicate inflammation in the body.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): High results also indicate inflammation in the body. Nearly all patients with temporal arteritis have elevated ESR.

Along with blood tests and a physical exam, your doctor will likely order a biopsy of your artery.

A biopsy is an outpatient procedure that’s performed in your doctor’s office. After injecting a local anesthetic, your doctor will make an incision just above your ear to remove a tiny piece of your temporal artery. 

Next, that biopsy is sent to a pathologist for careful examination and to look for evidence of inflammation. 

What Happens if Temporal Arteritis Goes Untreated?

If temporal arteritis isn’t treated – and quickly – it can lead to several complications, including:

  • Aneurysm or other damage to the blood vessels
  • Sudden blindness or other eyesight issues
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attacks

In some cases, leaving this condition untreated can lead to an aortic aneurysm, and this can cause massive internal bleeding. In extreme cases, temporal arteritis can lead to death.

It’s important to talk to your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms. 

what is temporal arteritis symptoms of temporal arteritis treatment for temporal arteritis elderly woman holding her head in pain talking to her doctor at an office visit

Treatment for Temporal Arteritis

Although there are no preventative treatments or cures for temporal arteritis, there are treatments that can minimize complications. The aim is to minimize the damage caused by poor blood flow.

If your doctor suspects that you have temporal arteritis, treatment may start before you even get your test results back. Your doctor may start with oral corticosteroids. 

Most people will start to feel better within a few days of taking corticosteroids. The dose of corticosteroids will be reduced very slowly over time, but you can expect to continue taking medication for one to two years. 

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will likely prescribe tocilizumab. This is a biological medicine that helps reduce the number of corticosteroids needed to keep the condition under control. 

Although effective, long-term use of corticosteroids can cause side effects or other medical conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cataracts
  • Muscle weakness
  • Glaucoma 
  • Weight gain

Bone loss is one of the more concerning effects of taking corticosteroids. Your doctor may recommend that you take extra steps to protect your bones during treatment, which can include:

  • Taking vitamin D and calcium supplements
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking
  • Getting a DEXA or bone mineral density scan
  • An active exercise routine that includes weight-bearing exercises
  • Taking bisphosphonate medication

If vision loss occurs, you may be given intravenous steroids for three days, but in most cases, vision loss is permanent.

It’s important to start treating this condition as soon as possible. In general, it’s the corticosteroids that have the most concerning side effects, but your doctor will help you take steps to minimize these effects. Doctor-recommended supplements, lifestyle changes, and regular bone scans can help minimize the bone loss that may occur from corticosteroids. 

Natural Remedies for Temporal Arteritis Symptoms

Temporal arteritis is a serious condition that should never be self-diagnosed and self-managed. Talk to your doctor before you stop or start using any natural remedy or taking any additional supplements. Here are some natural remedies for the symptoms of temporal arteritis that may be used in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Stop Smoking

We learned earlier that this disease affects the temporal arteries. Smoking restricts your blood vessels and increases your blood pressure, which may cause damage to your blood vessels.  

Two weeks after you stop smoking, blood circulation improves. A study done by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that participants who stopped smoking blood vessel function had improved, even though most of them had gained weight, which is common when someone stops smoking.

Improving your circulation and blood vessel health helps decrease the risk of developing this disease and may help reduce symptoms of temporal arteritis.

Essential Oils

what is temporal arteritis symptoms of temporal arteritis treatment for temporal arteritis assortment of essential oils in clear amber glass bottles with droppers on white background branch as decoration

Because temporal arteritis causes inflammation in the lining of the temporal arteries, reducing inflammation could be key to reducing the risk of developing this disease and managing symptoms.  There are many essential oils that may help reduce inflammation. Some essential oils that have been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties include:

Using these essential oils in a diffuser or mixed with your favorite carrier oil may help reduce inflammation caused by temporal arteritis.  Also mixing in essential oils known to help reduce pain may help reduce pain caused by the headaches associated with temporal arteritis. 

Eat A Healthy Diet

Diet plays an important part in our overall health. Eating a well-balanced diet can reduce inflammation and helps to regulate blood pressure. Foods that help to reduce inflammation and regulate blood pressure include:

Including these foods in your diet may help reduce the symptoms experienced with temporal arteritis. 


DMSO is known for its ability to be easily absorbed into the skin and into the deeper tissues. It is also an amazing anti-inflammatory, commonly used to treat symptoms of arthritis.  A study conducted on mice with arthritis found that the topical use of DMSO reduces the pro-inflammatory cytokines in the joints and white blood cells. 

DMSO is not only easily absorbed into the skin, but it also helps other medications or ingredients to be absorbed faster, increasing the efficacy of the additional ingredients. 

There are many preformulated creams and gels that have DMSO and essential oils that can reduce pain and inflammation.  This allows for targeted fast-acting pain relief. 

Outlook for Temporal Arteritis

Although most people will make a full recovery, treatment is a lengthy process. There’s also a chance that the condition may return in the future. If the condition causes blood vessel damage, there’s a greater risk of stroke. 

If the condition causes blindness, that damage is unlikely to be reversed. 

During treatment, it’s important to see your doctor regularly for checkups. Be sure to talk to your doctor before using any natural remedy in conjunction with traditional treatment to avoid adverse side effects. Your doctor will monitor your progress and see how your body is responding to the treatment. 

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