Giant cell arteritis (GCA), or temporal arteritis, is an inflammatory disease affecting the large blood vessels of the scalp, neck and arms typically affecting women over the age of 50 and most often between the ages of 70 and 80.
It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the blood vessels, including the temporal arteries, which supply blood to the head and the brain and is often associated with polymyalgia rheumatica.
The lining of arteries becomes inflamed, causing them to swell. This swelling narrows the blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood and sometimes blockages. This in turn causes a decrease in oxygen and vital nutrients to the brain and other tissues in the body. It frequently causes headaches, scalp tenderness, jaw pain and vision problems and can lead to blindness.
Conventional medical treatments start with immune suppressant corticosteroid medications such as Prednisone to reduce the inflammation quickly. Sometimes Methotrexate is also utilized. Patients typically begin to feel better within days of starting treatment. But even with treatment, relapses are common.
Initially prednisone seems like a godsend for patients suffering with auto-immune disorders. Suddenly, their symptoms like pain and swelling are magically gone. They have never felt so good.
However long-term use of corticosteroids can cause significant side effects which may include: Elevated pressure in the eyes causing glaucoma, cataracts, and bulging eyes, also fluid retention, causing swelling throughout your body particularly in your lower legs, high blood pressure, as well as psychological effects including moodiness, anxiety, memory and anger behavior, and insomnia.
Steroids can also cause weight gain, with fat deposits in your abdomen, face and the back of your neck, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, thinning skin, bruising, slow wound healing, increased risk of infections, increased body and facial hair and diabetes.
Corticosteroids also have major effects on the liver, particularly when given long term and in higher than physiologic doses. Glucocorticoid use can result in hepatic enlargement and steatosis or glycolgenosis and corticosteroids may act to worsen an underlying nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Patients on steroids for prolonged periods can become addicted and unable to withdraw from taking the drugs because when the body is flooded with extra cortisone, the adrenal glands decrease their own output sometimes to zero.
The key component to successfully treating any autoimmune disorder is to figure out what is triggering the immune system to become so agitated it overreacts and attacks.
There can be numerous triggers including stress, dietary allergies, environmental allergies, hormonal imbalances, sleep issues, infections, and medications etc. What makes it difficult is they can be different for different people. In November 2011, a study showed in patients with a severe form of vasculitis who are in remission, stress can be associated with a greater likelihood of the disease flaring.
Next anti-inflammatories are an absolute for most health problems particularly auto-immune disorders and inflammatory conditions.
Healthful – Zymes™ with Curcumin C3 complex (Healthful Balance) is a special balance of enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients designed to support a healthful inflammatory response. It is an extremely effective inflammation modulator which should be taken between meals (on an empty stomach) for chronic and acute musculoskeletal pain, swelling and inflammation.
Enzymes work by breaking up circulating immune complexes (CICs) which are at the root of inflammation. These circulating complexes of damaged proteins made up of cellular antibodies, antigens, and diseased tissue accumulate in the body parts such as the blood vessels, joints, and other tissues where they become systemic irritants, causing inflammation, and delay to the healing process. Enzymes, with their proteolytic capabilities, help to breakup and destroy these bad proteins and immune complexes, helping the immune system to do its job better by removing inflammatory substances. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. However, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high... it's around 3%, therefore it needs to be extracted out making it more concentrated and effective.
Protecting and repairing the lining of the blood is also especially important in Giant Cell Arteritis.
Resveratrol, the phenolic substance isolated initially from Veratrum grandiflorum and richly present in grapes, wine, peanuts, soy, and berries, has been attracting attention of scientists and medical doctors for many decades. It has been characterized as being one of the most potent vasoactive molecules responsible for effectively increasing blood flow. Studies utilizing cell cultures and pre-clinical models showed that resveratrol reduces endothelial dysfunction, alleviates oxidative stress and decreases inflammation.
Stress: Calm & Calmer (Lifetime Vitamins) is a supplement that contains L-Theanine which is an amino acid found in green tea and extracted out. It helps to calm the mind of racing or worrying thoughts without making you sleepy. In fact, it helps to make you more focused, less distracted, and overwhelmed. Relora is an herbal combination of magnolia and phellodenron which have a calming effect on the adrenal glands (which activate the fight or flight hormones). This adrenaline rush often precipitates panic attacks. Relora helps to keep the adrenals from overreacting in stressful situations without making you sleepy.
Obviously treating any autoimmune disease including Giant Cell Arteritis is complicated. It is best to schedule an appointment with an experience Holistic Practitioner to achieve a successful outcome without interfering with conventional medical treatments.
Telephone and in-office appointments are available at the Tree of Life Center 508-336-4242
Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner Tree of Life Center
Host of Holistic Healthline Radio