Arteritis, Giant Cell
National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.
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Giant cell arteritis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by the progressive inflammation of many arteries of the body (panarteritis). Granular material and abnormally large cells (giant cells) accumulate in the elastic lining of the arteries. Chronic inflammation is sometimes confined to the different branches of the heart's main artery (aorta) and any large arteries can become inflamed. However, the temporal arteries of the head are most frequently affected (temporal arteritis). In rare cases, veins may also be affected by giant cell arteritis.
The symptoms of giant cell arteritis may include stiffness, muscle pain, fever, and/or headaches. The exact cause of this disease is not fully understood, although it is thought to be an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's own immune system attacks healthy tissue.
Giant cell arteritis is closely related to polymyalgia rheumatica, another inflammatory disorder. These two disorders have been described in the medical literature as possible variants of the same disease process. Some researchers believe they represent different ends of a disease continuum. The exact nature of the association is not fully understood.
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