A headache or something more?

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A headache or something more?

Headache is one of the most common pain conditions. Most are easily treated with over-the-counter pain relievers or some other at-home remedy. But if a headache is severe or unusual, it may be due to a more serious condition.

Temporal arteritis is the most common form of vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) that can cause constant headaches, usually around the temples. It occurs when the temporal arteries, which supply blood to the head and brain, become inflamed or damaged. These changes can restrict blood flow, resulting in organ and tissue damage.

Also called giant cell arteritis, the condition affects adults over age 50. The most common symptom is a new, persisting headache. Other symptoms include tenderness at the temples or scalp, fatigue, fever, jaw pain when chewing, vision problems, and muscle aches.

If not diagnosed and treated quickly, temporal arteritis can cause stroke and damage to blood vessels and eyesight. Rheumatologists are experts in inflammatory diseases of blood vessels, and are skilled at detecting and managing temporal arteritis.

Temporal arteritis is different than a migraine headache. A migraine begins, and sometimes remains, on one side of the head, with pain stretching from the front to the back of the head. Migraines make people sensitive to light and sound, may cause nausea and vomiting, and can last a few hours or even days.

The causes of temporal arteritis are not well known. According to the American College of Rheumatology, half of patients who have temporal arteritis also have symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica --- an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness around the shoulders and hips.

According to the Mayo Clinic, temporal arteritis can be difficult to detect because its early symptoms resemble those of other common conditions. However, temporal arteritis requires prompt treatment to prevent complications, especially permanent vision loss.

Inform your healthcare provider immediately if you experience a new, persisting headache, changes in vision, or jaw pain. There is no cure for temporal arteritis, but it can be treated with medications.