Temporal arteritis, which is a type of connective tissue disease that causes inflammation of arteries in the head, may triple risk of blindness, Geisinger researchers have found.
This disease, in which arteries swell and restrict blood flow to the brain, may cause headaches, jaw soreness and flu-like symptoms, and if untreated, it can lead to blindness or stroke. The average age for disease onset is 70.
The patients of this disease often carry giant cells, which are white blood cells that destroy bacteria. The study found that patients with giant cells are far more prone to blindness compared to patients without these cells.
The study also found that patients with giant cells are three times more likely to experience Polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle aches and stiffness primarily in the arms, thighs and neck.
"We need to learn more about how these giant cells work so we can limit the effects of this disease, which can cause significant problems if ignored," said Geisinger rheumatologist and lead study author Thomas Harrington, MD.
The study is published in a recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Pathology.