According to Healio, giant-cell arteritis (GCA) is seeing a worrying trend. Over a period of 18 years (2000-2018), mortality rates for GCA increased from 50 to 57.6 per 1,000 deaths. In addition to this upward trajectory, the mortality rate of the general population has also gone down. In the full study findings, published in Arthritis Care & Research, the researchers offer up their understanding of GCA following an analysis of available data from the 18-year period.
In prior studies, researchers have been conflicted on how GCA actually relates to further complications and deaths. While some suggest that GCA heightens mortality risk, other studies suggest that it depends on biological sex or other factors. Furthermore, how does this mortality rate relate to that of the general population?
To answer these questions, researchers used data from 22,677 patients with GCA over a period from 4/1/2000 through 3/31/2019. All patients whose data were used were at least 50+ years old. For a control group, researchers used a similar group of individuals who did not have giant-cell arteritis.
After analyzing the data, researchers determined that patients with GCA had higher mortality rates than the general population when considering both age and biological sex. However, they did determine that males had a higher rate than previously thought. Those between ages 50-65 also had the highest rate. Even more concerningly, patients with GCA had continuously rising mortality rates while the general population’s rate was significantly reduced.
Ultimately, this suggests that additional research is needed on why the rate is rising, and how treatments can adequately address this trend.
Giant-Cell Arteritis (GCA)
Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is thought of as a form of arteritis or vasculitis—in short, it causes blood vessel inflammation. In this case, the inflammation specifically impacts the arteries around the scalp and head. Many times, GCA will affect the arteries around the temple, and may sometimes be referred to as “temporal arteritis.” Unfortunately, doctors are not sure exactly what causes this condition. However, an autoimmune response, genes, and environmental factors may play a role. GCA does not affect children, only adults. Additionally, it often only affects those over 50 years old. Other risk factors include being female, a history of polymalgia rheumatica, and being Caucasian. Symptoms include:
- A new but persistent and severe headache
- Unintended weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Flu-like symptoms
- Jaw pain, specifically while chewing
- Tongue, throat, or face pain
- Changes in vision
- Vision loss
If you suspect that you have giant-cell arteritis, visit a doctor immediately. Early treatment and diagnosis are crucial to prevent further vision loss or blindness.