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NHS misdiagnoses of Giant Cell Arteritis results in blindness in one eye for patient

DanielHeadaches are commonplace and most people will get one every now and again, but it’s important to be aware that headaches can be a symptom of a more serious illness. A little known but not so rare condition can have a devastating impact on patient’s lives if warning signs are missed. Undiagnosed or untreated, Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) can cause serious problems including permanent vision loss. Note: the condition is also referred to as Temporal Arteritis (TA)

Headaches occurs in about two thirds of people with GCA. This typically develops suddenly over a day or so, but it sometimes develops gradually over several days or weeks. The headache can be one-sided, or on both sides. Typically, it is mainly towards the front and sides of the head.

Giant Cell Arteritis is rather uncommon and in the main only affects people over the age of 60. It rarely affects people aged under 50. Another trait is that women are more commonly affected than men.

What Causes Giant Cell Arteritis?

Essentially, medical professionals do not know. They do know that aging has something to do with the disease. And in addition that the body’s immune system attacks and inflames the arteries. But no knowledge as to why the immune system attack occurs when and where it does.

GCA explained

Put simply GCA is an inflammation of the lining of your arteries — the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Most often, it affects the arteries in your head, especially those in your temples. For this reason, giant cell arteritis is sometimes called temporal arteritis or cranial arteritis. It frequently causes headaches, jaw pain, and blurred or double vision. Blindness and, less often, stroke are the most serious complications of giant cell arteritis. Prompt treatment of GCA is critical in order to prevent permanent tissue damage and loss of vision. Corticosteroid medications usually relieve symptoms of giant cell arteritis and may prevent loss of vision. You’ll likely begin to feel better within days of starting your treatment.

The Symptoms to watch out for:giant cell arteritis diagram

1. Aching and soreness in and around the temples; 2. Jaw pain while eating; 3. Vision loss. Note: Individuals with GCA may present a wide range of clinical symptoms.

This image illustrates arteries commonly affected in GCA. This diagram shows some of the arteries branching from the carotid arteries that are commonly affected in GCA. Notice that other affected arteries may include those originating from the aortic arch and are not shown in this image;

Overnight loss of eyesight may result

A recent article published in the UK describes how 64 year old Sue Chandler from Dorchester woke one morning in September 2010 with muscle pain in her shoulders and upper arms. At 64, she put it down to being ‘over-exuberant’ in the garden – and with symptoms that at first can seem trivial, this would be how most people might react. However, nineteen months later, after suffering an increasing number of other symptoms and a series of calamitous misdiagnoses by GPs, overnight she went completely and irreversibly blind in her right eye.

Another pensioner in the UK, ‘Derek’, was left permanently blind after a series of hospital blunders meant that he did not receive urgent treatment for GCA. medical law experts represented Derek in his fight for justice and he was later awarded £750,000 in compensation to help him to cope with this significant disability.

With GCA visual disorders including permanent, partial or complete loss of vision in one or both eyes occurs in up to 20% of people including:

a) a feeling or sensation of shade covering one of your eyes; b) double vision and visual field defects. Untreated, the second eye is likely to become affected within 1-2 weeks although it can be affected within 24 hours. Once visual impairment is established, it is normally too late and the damage is permanent. Therefore, GCA is considered a medical emergency.

Don’t delay – contact Coleman Legal Partners to see if you have a claim for undiagnosed or misdiagnosed Giant Cell Arteritis

If you have suffered from GCA, and you have concerns about any aspect of your treatment, and you would like some advice about whether you have a claim, please contact our team of solicitors for a quick and hassle free phone consultation. Also, if you believe a loved one suffered a worsening of a medical condition due to misdiagnosed giant cell arteritis, they may be eligible for damages. Call our medical negligence solicitors at Coleman Legal Partners and let us review the facts. You may have a medical negligence case. It’s also worth noting that as CLP, if we take your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that there is no fee payable for representation unless a settlement or recovery of funds is made on your behalf.

– Daniel O’Connell


Our extensive experience in Medical Negligence practice means that we are the best placed firm to handle your claim. Our solicitors are professional, discreet, helpful, friendly and efficient. For a free consultation please call us on 01-5313800 or email info@colemanlegalpartners.ie today for expert advice.

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