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Temporal arteritis is a very serious condition which should be treated as soon as symptoms are recognized. Dr. Sean Paul is a gifted ophthalmologist in Austin, Texas who has successfully completed many temporal artery biopsies. He will be happy to discuss any questions you may have before a biopsy is performed.

What is temporal arteritis?

Temporal arteritis is a condition where the temporal arteries, which supply blood the brain, are inflamed or damaged. It is also known as cranial arteritis or giant cell arteritis. Although this condition usually occurs in the temporal arteries, it can occur in almost any medium to large artery in the body. The following can be symptoms of temporal arteritis, but can also occur due to other conditions:

  • Double vision
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Jaw pain (can occur with chewing)
  • Sudden, permanent loss of vision 
  • Shoulder pain, hip pain, and stiffness
  • Tenderness in the scalp/temples
  • A throbbing headache (usually in the temples)

Who does temporal arteritis affect?

The American College of Rheumatology reports that approximately 229,000 people in the United States are affected by temporal arteritis, and people over the age of 50 are more likely than younger people to develop it. Women are also more likely than men to have temporal arteritis. Although the exact cause is unknown, it may be linked to the body’s autoimmune response. Excessive doses of antibiotics and certain severe infections have also been linked to temporal arteritis.

Temporal arteritis treatment

There’s no known prevention, but once diagnosed, temporal arteritis can be treated to minimize complications. Untreated temporal arteritis can lead to other very serious conditions, including aneurysms, strokes, and even death. If you have temporal arteritis, Dr. Paul will immediately begin treatment for you. This is usually a daily oral medication: high doses of steroids, such as prednisone, to reduce inflammation in the arteries. Dr. Paul will also closely monitor your progress and adjust the medication accordingly. 

Diagnosis

Dr. Paul will perform a physical exam and look at the patient’s head to determine whether there’s any tenderness. He will pay special attention to the arteries and may also order a blood test or recommend a biopsy. A temporal artery biopsy can be done conveniently at any of our five Central Texas locations (South Austin, North Austin, Westlake, Lakeway, or New Braunfels) using local anesthesia.

What happens during a temporal artery biopsy?

During this relatively minor procedure, a small piece of tissue is removed from the temporal artery and studied for signs of inflammation and damage. On the day of the biopsy, you will be taken to a special room where the procedure will be done. Dr. Paul will locate your temporal artery and use a small needle to deliver medicine that will numb your skin near the biopsy site. A small incision will then be made in the skin, and a very small piece of tissue will be removed from the temporal artery.

The skin will be closed with stitches. You will be able to go home, as well as eat and drink normally following the temporal artery biopsy. You will also have a small bandage on your temple and may experience a little pain as the numbing medicine wears off. Your temporal artery will take several days to completely heal from the procedure, so it is important to avoid strenuous activity during this time. The sample of tissue taken during the biopsy will be studied for signs of temporal artery damage. Results from the biopsy will take a few days to come in, and Dr. Paul will call you directly or arrange to discuss the results with you in person.

Risks of untreated temporal arteritis

If temporal arteritis isn’t treated, serious, potentially life-threatening complications can occur. These complications include:

  • Vision loss
  • Eye muscle weakness
  • Blindness
  • Stroke
  • Inflammation and damage to other blood vessels
  • Development of aneurysms, including aortic aneurysms

An aortic aneurysm can lead to massive internal bleeding. Death can also occur if temporal arteritis isn’t treated. Please talk with Dr. Paul about ways to minimize any complications from temporal arteritis.

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Schedule a consultation with us

If you think that you or a loved one may have temporal arteritis, please make an appointment to see Dr. Sean Paul as soon as possible. Temporal arteritis can cause very serious complications, but seeking immediate medical attention and treatment can reduce the risk of developing these complications. For any questions you may have, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Paul, please call 512-642-5050 or contact us online

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