Temporal arteritis can cause sudden blindness

Inflammation of large- and medium-sized blood vessels is not well understood, but can cause permanent vision loss.



March 3, 2020 - 9:55 AM

Dr. Keith Roach

Dear Dr. Roach: My wife went blind in her left eye suddenly last October, and a biopsy showed temporal arteritis. She was started on high-dose prednisone, and after four weeks they lowered the dosage. Her right eye is blurry, and doctors recommended removing the cataract in hopes of helping her see better. What is her prognosis? Will she always have this? — J.B.

Answer: I am sorry to hear about your wife.

Temporal arteritis, also called giant cell arteritis, is the inflammation of large- and medium-sized blood vessels. The exact cause is not understood, but it does seem to have elements of an autoimmune disease; the body attacks its own blood vessels. This can lead to injury of the blood vessel, but in the case of the temporal artery in the forehead, it can lead to the dreaded complication your wife suffered: blindness due to poor blood flow to the optic nerve and retina. The vision loss is permanent. The other eye will be affected 25-50% of the time in untreated patients, which is why she was started on high-dose prednisone. It dramatically reduces the risk of further loss in the opposite eye.

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