Abdominal symptoms with GCA?

I'm wondering if anyone here has had or knows first hand of someone who has had abdominal pain as a symptom of GCA ?  I have had chronic abdominal pain for 7 or 8 years but when the GCA flared in February and through March the abdominal pain changed,  no longer responded to my usual pain meds.  I ended going to the ER on two occasions.   Finally,  being in tears 24/7 my GP ordered injections which helped.  The pain got better,  but I had also increased my Prednisone for the flare.  Now as I had posted my CRP has been going up and last night gI had the headache back, and once again the abdominal pain has escalated.  I know the literature mentions abdominal involvement but haven't heard of it otherwise. 


9 Replies

  • Animi, I haven't heard of anyone diagnosed with GCA complaining of stomach pain as a symptom, although that doesn't mean to say it can't happen, especially as  GCA can affect arteries anywhere in the body.  However, have you ruled out everything else as a possible cause of your stomach pain - for instance, PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) often prescribed alongside the steroids?  They can cause abdominal pain and I speak as someone who has experienced side effects including  abdominal pain from both Lansoprazole and Omeprazole.

    There is, however, a risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm whilst suffering from GCA and in the years post-treatment, and it is recommended that chest and abdominal X-rays are carried out every 1-2 years to rule out this risk.  I have recently had my latest round of X-rays.

  • Thank you Celtic.   For my usual abdominal pain I've been examined thoroughly and the only diagnosis they came up with was Colonic Inertia which basically just means my bowel doesn't move and I'm prone to bowel obstructions. 

    But this time around with the severe new pain I had a chest and abdominal xray in the ER.  And yes, I am taking a PPI for my stomach.   I have read some people's GCA being diagnosed with a PET scan.  Not with the original diagnosis but with flares I have had chest pain as well.  I was sent to a cardiologist and all tests were good.

    I will be adding this concern to the list I am making for my new GCA doctor but am curious to know the experience of people here.

    I should mention that my neurologist ordered a special MRI to look for changes in the arteries in the head and it was negative. 


  • At the beginning of being unwell, one of the early symptoms I had was very sudden sharp shooting pains in my side and abdomen, first on the left and then on both sides, but not in my stomach; they weresharp enough to make me double over. The pains have come back on a couple of occasions but no one medical has seemed to pay them much attention - or maybe they just don't know what they might be. 

  • Thank you CloudGazer6,  my new abdominal pain is high up under the ribs mid centre and sometimes goes up into my chest and throat

  • I also had - and still get when the steroid dose is  being brought down  -  nasty costochondritis pain, in my ribs and in particular in my sternum. The sternum pain can make it difficult to breathe. These bony pains feel quite different to the sharp side/abdominal pains. 

  • Hi animi, 

    Any large artery can be affected by GCA. Is your pain worse after eating, if so you could have abdominal angina. A CT/PET scan isn't great for looking at abdominal arteries as the abdomen makes too much " noise " MR or CT angiograms are the scans of choice. 

    Another possibility is inflamation in the bowel itself. There is a test called faecal calprotectin which specifically measures the amount of inflammation in the bowel, I would ask about that. 

    Another cause may be gastroparesis, which is the slow transit of food through the bowel due to nerve damage ( usually the vagus nerve I think ). It can cause severe abdo pain. 

    I had months of abdo pain, my calprotectin was slightly raised and the pain was worse after eating. A CTA was negative but thankfully Infliximab infusions ( a type of biologic drug used for my Auto immune disease ) have helped enormously, confirming my belief that the problem was connected to my underlying auto immune problems ( Spondyloarthropathy / Behcets syndrome ). 

    Abdo problems are notoriously difficult to diagnose unfortunately. The gut is a hugely complex organ and new research is happening on the effects of gut microbes and disease, the human microbiome. I personally think it has huge potential for our understanding of auto immune disease. 

  • Thank you for that info Keyes.

  • An interesting article, I found a few case reports online with similar symptoms/ presentation. 


  • If abdominal arteries are affected it can cause mesenteric pain.

    Keyes has gone into far more detail than I can at present. 

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