Until the day you received your diagnosis, you likely had never heard of Giant Cell Arteritis. It is not featured in any TV ads, and it does not receive a lot of press.

Because of the lack of coverage, you may have difficulty finding information on what you can expect regarding treatment and what lifestyle changes you should make. Keep reading to find out how you can continue to enjoy life while living with Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA).

Understanding the Disease

Research regarding GCA is ongoing, and medical professionals aren’t entirely sure of the root cause. However, they believe it is an autoimmune disease where the lining of your arteries becomes inflamed. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. GCA most often affects the arteries in the head, specifically the temporal arteries, which are located on either side of the head just behind the ears. The inflammation caused by GCA can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can narrow or block them. Symptoms of GCA include headache, jaw pain, and visual problems.

GCA usually affects Caucasian women between the ages of 70-80, though it can affect anyone at any age.

Living with Giant Cell Arteritis

There is no cure for GCA; however, early treatment and lifestyle changes can help you manage your condition.

– Medications
The main goal of beginning treatment is to get the inflammation under control. If left untreated, GCA can cause blindness. Treatment for GCA typically involves taking steroids to reduce inflammation. In some cases, additional treatments such as immunosuppressants or biologics may be necessary.

– Get Better Sleep
Adequate sleep is the cornerstone of any healthy lifestyle change. There has been research that shows a correlation between sleep disorders and autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, lack of sleep may lead to an increase in inflammatory markers. If the pain associated with your GCA is making sleep difficult, speak with your healthcare provider about taking OTC pain relievers.

– Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Restrict or eliminate refined carbohydrates, sugar, fried foods, and alcohol. These foods can trigger inflammation and make symptoms worse. According to Harvard Health Medical School, some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include olive oil, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, fatty fish such as salmon, and fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges. Some of these foods are rich in antioxidants, which can help to reduce inflammation. Finally, it is essential to drink plenty of water to help to flush out toxins and prevent dehydration.

– Exercise
Regular activity can also help you manage your GCA symptoms. It doesn’t need to be high impact or high intensity. Walking, swimming, and biking are all excellent options. In addition, patients should warm up gradually before exercising and cool down afterward. Stretching exercises can also help to reduce stiffness and pain.

Manage Your Symptoms with Professional Support

GCA is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment. If you experience any of the symptoms we listed, you should contact our office immediately. Our caring team at Advanced Rheumatology of Houston understands that early diagnosis and treatment are essential for preventing severe complications from GCA. Call us at (281) 766-7886 or fill out our contact form to schedule your appointment.