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Treatment of giant cell arteritis (GCA) with high-dose glucocorticoids (GC) regularly leads to a control of the inflammatory activity, so that high-dose GC is still the recommended standard treatment in the current guidelines; however, after discontinuation of GC treatment or reduction of the GC dosage, relapses occur in up to 70% of patients in the further course of the disease, making it necessary to resume treatment or increase the dosage. As a consequence many patients therefore have to be treated with GC often in high doses over several years, which results in a high cumulative exposure to GC. The risk for GC-associated diseases, such as diabetes, glaucoma, osteoporosis or severe infections is therefore significantly increased for patients with giant cell arteritis. For patients with GC-associated comorbidities or increased risk of developing them or patients with a relapse, the current guidelines therefore recommend GC-sparing treatment with tocilizumab or alternatively methotrexate. It is currently unclear over what period of time patients should be treated with GC and GC-sparing treatment, since high-quality study data on de-escalation strategies for GCA are currently still lacking. Decisions on treatment duration and intensity must therefore be made individually for each patient, taking into account general and patient-specific risk factors for a GC-dependent course, GCA-associated vascular damage (stenoses, aneurysms, visual loss) and treatment-associated complications.


Bernhard Hellmich. Glucocorticoids in the treatment of giant cell arteritis : How much, how long and how to spare? Zeitschrift fur Rheumatologie. 2021 May;80(4):322-331

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PMID: 33710440

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