Horton's syndrome: treatment, progression, definition, so what is it?
Horton's syndrome: treatment, progression, definition, so what is it?

Horton's syndrome: treatment, progression, definition, so what is it?

By Stacey Williams
Last edited

Horton’s syndrome is an inflammation of the arteries, causing pains in the head and the jaw.

Definition, what is Horton’s syndrome?

Horton’s syndrome is an inflammation of the artery walls. It is also referred to as temporal arteritis, named after the most commonly affected artery, which is located around the skull area.

Horton’s syndrome causes severe headaches and pains in the jaw and it can lead to a number of serious complications if it is not quickly treated, such as a stroke or blindness.

The people most commonly affectedby this syndrome are those aged over 50 years, of which two thirds being women.

Symptoms: how to recognise Horton’s syndrome

The main clinical signs of Horton’s syndrome are persistent headaches (migraines), located in one or two temples. There is generally also a fever and a strong feeling of fatigue.

Jaw claudication is one of the symptoms characterised by the syndrome and this is brought on by pain whilst chewing or when the mouth is wide open. Sufferers can also experience visual acuity, diplopia (doubling of the vision), scalp hypersensitivity or weight loss.

Causes and factors of the risks of Horton’s syndrome

Horton’s syndrome causes an inflammation in the arteries which then becomes swollen, reducing the amount of blood and therefore oxygen which can reach different internal organs. It is this reduction of the blood flow which leads to the symptoms appearing. However, the exact cause of this phenomenon is unknown.

There are also certain susceptible factors which can increase the risks of contracting Horton’s syndrome such as age, gender or Forestier-Certonciny syndrome.

Progression of Horton’s syndrome

In the absence of treatment, many complications can arise very suddenly with sight problems being the most frequent. The swelling of the ocular blood vessels, reduces the amount of blood that can reach the eyes, causing loss of vision (blindness) or paralysis of the eyes. In most cases when this happens, it is unfortunately permanent.

Horton’s syndrome can affect all arteries, such as those that supply blood to the brain or the heart. In these cases, there are big risks of a cerebrovascular incident (stroke) or a heart attack, but this remains to be a rare complication of the syndrome.

Treatment: how to treat Horton’s syndrome

The treatment of Horton’s syndrome involves corticosteroid therapy which is the administration of corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory steroids) such as Prednisone. The earlier the treatment is started, the more effective it will be. It is therefore recommended to start them as soon as Horton’s syndrome is suspected.

The symptoms decrease from the beginning of treatment but it is important nevertheless to continue treatment for a duration of at least 18 months, with the doses of medication being progressively reduced over time.

Most commonly in older people, some secondary effects can also appear such as osteoporosis, a high blood pressure or glaucoma.

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