Complications of giant cell arteritis 

People with giant cell arteritis (GCA) can sometimes develop further problems associated with the condition.

Visual loss

Around one in five people with giant cell arteritis will experience some degree of visual loss. This can range from some vision loss in one eye to total blindness.

Coming to terms with any degree of sight loss can be overwhelming, and you'll probably require a great deal of help and support.

You may find it useful to contact the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the UK's leading charity for people affected by visual impairment.

Read more about living with low vision.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Inflammation associated with giant cell arteritis can sometimes weaken the walls of the abdominal aorta. This is the main blood vessel responsible for taking blood from the heart and distributing it to the rest of the body.

Weakened walls of the abdominal aorta can cause a bulge to form, known as an aneurysm. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is potentially very serious because there's a risk that the blood vessel could rupture, causing massive internal bleeding and, in most cases, death.

Because of this risk, it may be recommended that you have a check-up every two years if you have a history of giant cell arteritis. Tests such as ultrasound scans and X-rays can be used to check if you have developed an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

If a significant aneurysm is detected, a type of surgery known as grafting is usually recommended. This involves removing the section of the aorta that contains the aneurysm and replacing it with a piece of synthetic tubing called a graft.

Read more about treating an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Cardiovascular disease

People with giant cell arteritis also have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is the general term for disease of the heart or blood vessels, and it's a leading cause of stroke and heart attacks.

Treatment for giant cell arteritis, such as low-dose aspirin, can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Page last reviewed: 13/01/2015

Next review due: 13/01/2017