The most common symptoms of giant cell arteritis are head pain and tenderness — often severe — that usually occurs in both temples. Some people, however, have pain in only one temple or in the front of the head.
Signs and symptoms of giant cell arteritis can vary. For some people, the onset of the condition feels like the flu — with muscle stiffness and aches (myalgia) around the shoulders and hips, fever and fatigue, as well as headaches.
Generally, signs and symptoms of giant cell arteritis include:
- Persistent, severe head pain and tenderness, usually in your temple area
- Vision loss or double vision
- Scalp tenderness — it may hurt to comb your hair or even to lay your head on a pillow, especially where the arteries are inflamed
- Jaw pain (jaw claudication) when you chew or open your mouth wide
- Sudden, permanent loss of vision in one eye
- Unexplained weight loss
Pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders or hips are common symptoms of a related disorder, polymyalgia rheumatica. Approximately half the people with giant cell arteritis also have polymyalgia rheumatica.
When to see a doctor
If you develop a new, persistent headache or any of the problems listed above, see your doctor without delay. If you're diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, starting treatment as soon as possible can usually help prevent blindness.