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Diagnosis of giant cell (temporal) arteritis

William P Docken, MD
Section Editors
Jonathan Trobe, MD
Eric L Matteson, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Monica Ramirez Curtis, MD, MPH


Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is the most common of the systemic vasculitides [1]. GCA is also a classic systemic rheumatic disease of older adults; it virtually never occurs in individuals younger than 50 years of age and peaks in incidence in the seventh decade [2]. Although all ethnic groups can be affected, most patients with GCA are white [3]. Many of the symptoms and signs of GCA result from involvement of the cranial branches of arteries that originate from the aortic arch, but, as the disease is systemic, vascular involvement can be widespread.

The diagnosis of GCA will be reviewed here. The pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and treatment of this disorder are discussed separately. (See "Pathogenesis of giant cell (temporal) arteritis" and "Clinical manifestations of giant cell (temporal) arteritis" and "Treatment of giant cell (temporal) arteritis".)


The diagnosis of giant cell arteritis (GCA) should be considered in a patient over the age of 50 years who complains of or is found to have one of the following symptoms or signs:

New headaches

Abrupt onset of visual disturbances, especially transient monocular visual loss

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 12, 2017.
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