Could your reoccurring headache be a sign of a much more severe disease? According to a report that appeared in the January/February 2007 issue of General Dentistry, the AGD's clinical, peer-reviewed journal, older individuals who experience variable signs, symptoms, and pain in the head and jaw could be suffering from temporal arteritis, a disease characterized by inflammation in and damage to the walls of various blood vessels. Headaches typically are the characteristic feature in 60 percent of temporal arteritis cases.
Though the cause is unknown, dentists who encounter patients with puzzling complaints that are not explained by oral and physical findings may encourage their patients to take additional steps in order to properly diagnose this disease. Patients with temporal arteritis should be referred for medical evaluation and treatment before serious complications occur such as sudden blindness.
According to James Allen, MD, lead author of the study, "Temporal arteritis is a disease that usually affects individuals older than 70 and increases in frequency with age." Women, however, are three times more likely than men to suffer from this disease.
In addition to headaches, other clinical symptoms that may suggest the possibility of temporal arteritis include, pain when combing hair, pain in the mouth, weight loss and anemia. Dr. Allen recommends that if the clinical symptoms suggest the possibility of temporal arteritis, the patient should be referred to a physician for sedimentation or a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. Both are blood test designed to detect the amount of CRP released in the blood due to the inflammation of blood vessels.