When are improvements typically seen after initiation of corticosteroid treatment for giant cell arteritis (GCA) (temporal arteritis)?

Updated: Sep 03, 2020
  • Author: Mythili Seetharaman, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Improvement of systemic symptoms (eg, headache, lethargy) typically occurs within 72 hours of initiation of therapy. The elevation in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and ischemic manifestations (eg, temporal headache, jaw claudication) diminish in several days. The ESR often drops even in patients with a normal baseline reading.

Patients with multi-infarct dementia from GCA should not expect immediate cognitive recovery; however, longitudinal follow-up should show no further deterioration and may show modest improvement. Even with prompt treatment, visual loss may be permanent.

High-dose steroid therapy should be maintained only long enough for symptoms to resolve. Steroids should then be tapered slowly to the lowest dose required to suppress symptoms. Both clinical signs and sequential measurements of the ESR (or C-reactive protein level) assist in monitoring the patient's response. Patients with visual involvement usually require slower tapering of corticosteroids.

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