Giant cell arteritis


Giant cell arteritis, also known as temporal arteritis, is a condition where arteries, particularly those at the side of the head (the temples), become inflamed (swollen). It is called ‘giant cell’ because abnormally large cells gather in the artery walls.

It's a serious condition that requires urgent treatment.

More on what we do

If your GP suspects you have giant cell arteritis they will arrange blood tests and refer you to us urgently.

We offer a fast track service to assess patients with suspected giant cell arteritis. You may have an ultrasound of your temporal arteries on the day you attend and/or you may be referred for a temporal artery biopsy which involves a return trip to hospital.


If your GP has a strong suspicion of giant cell arteritis they will start you on steroid tablets. If we confirm the diagnosis you will normally stay on steroid tablets for between 12 and 18 months.

Most patients are able to come off steroid tablets eventually but some might require stronger medications to dampen the immune system such as methotrexate, leflunomide, azathioprine and very occasionally tociluzimabtocilizumab.


Being on steroid tablets for a long time  can cause thinning of the bones or “osteoporosis”.

Most patients will therefore also be given a calcium and vitamin D supplement and another tablet to prevent or treat osteoporosis, usually a “bisphosphonate” such as alendronic acid.

Our team

Our rheumatology team includes six consultants and a Staff Grade:

  • Dr Earl
  • Dr Haigh
  • Dr Brown
  • Dr Mascarenhas
  • Dr Abusalameh
  • Dr Cates
  • Dr Murphy

We have five nurse specialists:

  • Jill Moran
  • Tracey Morey
  • Gillian Hawkins
  • Sharon Mulcahy
  • Rachael Shaw

All consultants see patients with giant cell arteritis.

Where to find us

RD&E Wonford, Barrack Rd, Exeter EX2 5DW

Contact us

Most patients will have their first appointment at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Princess Elizabeth orthopaedic centre.

RD&E Wonford, Barrack Rd, Exeter EX2 5DW

Supporting you

Living with a chronic condition can be challenging both physically and emotionally. We link with “talking health” services at the RDE. They can provide extra support with patients experiencing mental health difficulties. See here

Information for healthcare professionals

Further information, including referral criteria, can be found here


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