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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Giant cell arteritis

Other Names for this Disease
  • Arteritis cranialis
  • Arteritis temporalis
  • Cranial arteritis
  • GCA
  • Horton's arteritis
More Names
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Your Question

Are there alternate therapies to prednisone? 

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

How might gian cell arteritis be treated?

The treatment of choice for giant cell arteritis is corticosteroid medication, usually prednisone. This condition is typically treated with high doses of this medication. If not treated promptly, the condition carries a small but definite risk of blindness, so prednisone should be started as soon as possible, perhaps even before confirmation is made through a temporal artery biopsy.[1]  

Most people begin to feel better within a few days after starting treatment. However, the medication needs to be continued for 1 - 2 years, over which time the dose is slowly reduced. Taking corticosteroid medications for this long can make bones thinner and increase the chance of a fracture. As a result, individuals undergoing treatment should avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, take extra calcium and vitamin D, start walking or doing other weight-bearing exercises, and have periodic bone mineral density testing.[2]

Other medications that suppress the immune system are sometimes also needed.[2]

Last updated: 1/3/2012

Are there alternate therapies to prednisone? 

While corticosteroids remain the treatment of choice, due to their potential side-effects, other therapies have been considered. Anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy (infliximab and etanercept) has been utilized in some patients with longstanding corticosteroid-resistant temporal arteritis who are at risk for adverse events. Other possible therapies include cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, dapsone, tocilizumab, rituximab, and abatacept, though none of these is routinely recommended.[3]

Last updated: 9/19/2011