Purpose: To report the ocular manifestations of giant cell arteritis using the strict criterion of a positive temporal artery biopsy for diagnosis of giant cell arteritis.
Methods: In a prospective study from 1973 to 1995, we investigated 170 patients whose diagnosis of giant cell arteritis was confirmed on temporal artery biopsy. At the initial visit, all patients were questioned regarding systemic and ocular signs and symptoms of giant cell arteritis and underwent ophthalmic, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Westergren), and C-reactive protein evaluations. Any patient with a high index of suspicion of giant cell arteritis was immediately started on systemic corticosteroid therapy and had temporal artery biopsy performed as soon as possible.
Results: Eighty-five (50.0%) of the 170 patients with giant cell arteritis proven by temporal artery biopsy presented with ocular involvement. Ocular symptoms in patients with ocular involvement were visual loss of varying severity in 83 (97.7%), amaurosis fugax in 26 (30.6%), diplopia in five (5.9%), and eye pain in seven (8.2%); ocular ischemic lesions consisted of arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy in 69 (81.2%), central retinal artery occlusion in 12 (14.1%), cilioretinal artery occlusion in 12 (of 55 patients with satisfactory fluorescein angiography [21.8%]), posterior ischemic optic neuropathy in six (7.1%), and ocular ischemia in one (1.2%). In almost every patient with giant cell arteritis, fluorescein fundus angiography disclosed occlusive disease of the posterior ciliary arteries.
Conclusion: Because giant cell arteritis is a potentially blinding disease and its early diagnosis is the key to preventing blindness, it is important to recognize its various ocular manifestations.