If you have signs and symptoms of giant cell arteritis, you're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. In some cases, your doctor may also refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) if you're having visual symptoms, a brain and nervous system specialist (neurologist) if you're having headaches, or a joint specialist (rheumatologist) if you're having symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica.
Because appointments can be brief and there may be many things to discuss, it's a good idea to be prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. For some tests involved in diagnosing giant cell arteritis, you may need to follow special instructions before the appointment.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking, along with the dosage information.
- Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor and may ensure that you cover all the points that are important to you. For giant cell arteritis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- What kinds of tests will I need to confirm the diagnosis? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- What are my treatment options?
- What types of side effects can I expect from the medication?
- How long do I need to stay on medication, and what's my long-term prognosis?
- Will giant cell arteritis come back?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Do I need to change my diet in any way? Do I need to take any supplements?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask any additional questions that come up during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
What you can do in the meantime
Ask your doctor if taking a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve) might help ease head pain or tenderness.
Oct. 05, 2012
- Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Polymyalgia/default.asp. Accessed May 25, 2012.
- Giant cell arteritis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal_and_connective_tissue_disorders/vasculitis/giant_cell_arteritis.html. Accessed May 25, 2012.
- Hunder GG. Clinical manifestations of giant cell (temporal) arteritis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Hunder GG. Pathogenesis of giant cell (temporal) arteritis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Falardeau J. Giant cell arteritis. Neurologic clinics. 2010;28:581.
- Borchers AT, et al. Giant cell arteritis: A review of classification, pathophysiology, geoepidemiology and treatment. Autoimmunity Reviews. 2012;11:A544.
- Hunder GG. Diagnosis of giant cell (temporal) arteritis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Treatment of giant cell (temporal) arteritis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed May 28, 2012.
- Calcium and vitamin D: Important at any age. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/nutrition/#e. Accessed May 29, 2012.
- Chang-Miller A (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz. June 3, 2012.
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