A 77-year-old man suffered a “complete” loss of vision just days after noticing shoulder and neck stiffness.

One of the biggest risk factors for vision loss is advancing age. Sometimes, however, the body launches a surprise attack on itself, compromising vision for several days. One case report highlights that even treatment may not save the patient’s vision in such cases.

In 2019, BMJ Case Reports detailed the plight of a 77-year-old man who developed “irreversible bilateral blindness after receiving a confirmed diagnosis of giant cell arteritis.”

The patient was admitted to the emergency department 10 days later with complaints of frontotemporal headache, shoulder and neck stiffness, and scalp tenderness.

He immediately began treatment with steroids, namely prednisolone, but over the next four days he began to have permanent blurred vision and a dark veil over his right upper visual field.

Despite adhering to the treatment regimen, “his vision continued to deteriorate, leading to complete loss of vision,” the authors of the report say.

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According to WebMD, giant cell arteritis (GCA) is “uncommon but an important cause of vision loss in people over 50.”

The health organ continues: “This disease causes inflammation of the lining of your arteries, especially in the head.

“Symptoms include headache, scalp tenderness, jaw pain, fever, and fatigue.”

Often this condition “causes loss of vision, usually in one eye. Without treatment, this can lead to permanent blindness in a week or two,” the health authority adds.

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Once diagnosed, the typical course of action for physicians is to administer corticosteroids such as prednisone.

WebMD explains: “You will feel better within a few days, but you may need to keep taking the drug for one or two years.

“A drug called tocilizumab is also approved for the treatment of giant cell arteritis.”

According to the RNIB, approximately 30 to 50 percent of patients with untreated GCA have permanent and severe vision loss in one eye.

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The health authority claims that without immediate treatment, once vision begins to deteriorate, a third of patients develop vision loss in the other eye.

In general terms, this condition refers to inflammation of the lining of the arteries.

The arteries located in the head area, around the temple area are often affected.

The causes of this condition are largely unknown, but most of the existing literature ascribes an autoimmune nature to the disease.

In other words, the disease may be caused by the immune system launching an abnormal attack on the walls of its won arteries.

“Certain genes and environmental factors can increase your susceptibility to disease,” adds the Mayo Clinic.
Although the evidence is limited, some studies have linked stressful life events to the development of GCA.
This is because stress causes many physical and psychological changes in the body, but a causal relationship is still difficult to prove.

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