lady with headache

For those of us with PMR, we all need to be aware of a life-threatening (sister) condition called Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) that sometimes goes along with PMR.  Your doctor should have taught you all about this condition but sadly, many do not inform us about it.


As you may know, PMR is an inflammation of the muscles and surrounding area of your joints.  This inflammation can also spread to other parts of your body.  In addition, this inflammation can also affect blood vessels. 




When there is inflammation of the temporal artery (on the side of your head) or the surrounding arteries, it is called Temporal Arthritis, otherwise known as Giant Cell Arteritis or GCA.



GCA can be very serious and cause blindness if it goes untreated.  That is why it is so important that you know GCA symptoms and that you need to seek medical help right away if you have symptoms of GCA.



Not everyone with PMR has GCA and not everyone with GCA has PMR.  However, they are derived from the systemic inflammation that we all suffer from, so a cross-over of the 2 conditions is possible.


I am going to outline the symptoms for you but recommend that you do some reading up on this condition so that you are intimately aware of every aspect.  I have attached some resources.


Symptoms of GCA are:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision or changes in vision
  • ear or jaw pain
  • facial pain
  • loss of vision 
  • scalp tenderness
  • a bulging vein on the side of the head near the temple



What should you do if you have any of the above symptoms?

  • Call your doctor immediately.  Your ophthalmologist may also be able to help you.
  • If your doctor is not available, go to the emergency room.  Tell them that you have PMR (some staff may not be familiar with PMR and need a little explanation from you) and that you are suffering from some symptoms that could indicate GCA.  If they are not familiar with any of these terms, do not be shy to educate them about both PMR and GCA as your vision is in jeopardy. 



How Do They Treat GCA?


Normally, GCA is treated with high doses of steroids.  Typically, the dose will be higher than that for which they treat PMR.  You will need careful observation and testing.


Here are some resources to read up on GCA:


This Blog is not meant to scare you, although the possibility of GCA is fairly upsetting.  I just want you to be knowledgeable on this topic so that you can advocate for yourself if needed.  I hope that you (and I) never have to deal with GCA but at least we will be prepared if it comes to that.



Have a good day, my fellow sufferers!