Diagnosing Temporal Arteritis
When diagnosing temporal arteritis, a doctor considers a patient's medical history and the symptoms that are reported. In order to make a definitive diagnosis of temporal arteritis, however, laboratory tests are needed. The most common lab tests used to make a temporal arteritis diagnosis are erythrocyte sedimentation rate and temporal artery biopsy.
No single test is available to definitively diagnose temporal arteritis. To make a temporal arteritis diagnosis, a physician considers the patient's medical history, including symptoms that the patient reports, results of the physical exam, laboratory tests that rule out other possible diagnoses, and results of other procedures, including a temporal artery biopsy.
Doctors and patients both need to be aware of the risk of temporal arteritis in people with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and should be on the lookout for symptoms of the disorder. Severe headaches, jaw pain, and vision problems are typical symptoms of temporal arteritis. In addition, physical examination may reveal an abnormal temporal artery: one that is tender to the touch, inflamed, and with a reduced pulse.
Certain procedures and blood tests may be recommended for diagnosing temporal arteritis.
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate
A common blood test for temporal arteritis includes an erythrocyte sedimentation rate. The most typical laboratory finding in people with temporal arteritis is an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate, commonly referred to as the sed rate. This test measures how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube of unclotted blood. Rapidly descending cells (an elevated sed rate) indicate inflammation in the body. While the sed rate measurement is a helpful diagnostic tool, it alone does not diagnose temporal arteritis. An abnormal result indicates only that tissue is inflamed, which also is a symptom of many forms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.