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Inflammatory disease causes blindness

Research examines temporal arteritis

People suffering from a type of connective tissue disease characterized by inflammation of arteries in the head are three times more likely to experience blindness, new Geisinger research shows.

In a study published in a recent edition of the Journal of Clinical Pathology, Geisinger researchers examined a disorder known as temporal arteritis. In this disease, arteries swell and restrict blood flow to the brain.

Temporal arteritis can cause headaches, jaw soreness and flu-like symptoms. Untreated, the disease can lead to blindness or stroke. The average age for disease onset is 70.

Giant cells, which are white blood cells that destroy bacteria, are often found in patients with the disease. The Geisinger study found that patients with giant cells are far more prone to blindness compared to patients without these cells.

The study also found that patients with giant cells are three times more likely to experience Polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle aches and stiffness primarily in the arms, thighs and neck.

"We need to learn more about how these giant cells work so we can limit the effects of this disease, which can cause significant problems if ignored," said Geisinger rheumatologist and lead study author Thomas Harrington, MD.

About Geisinger Health System

Founded in 1915, Geisinger Health System (Danville, PA) is one of the nation's largest integrated health services organizations. Serving more than two million residents throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania, the physician-led organization is at the forefront of the country's rapidly emerging electronic health records movement. Geisinger is comprised of two medical center campuses, three hospitals, a 720-member group practice, a not-for-profit health insurance company and the Geisinger Center for Health Research—dedicated to creating innovative new models for patient care, satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

Justin Walden | EurekAlert!
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