Objective: To define musculoskeletal manifestations occurring in a population-based cohort of patients with giant cell (temporal) arteritis (GCA).
Methods: The records of 128 patients with GCA diagnosed over a 42-year-period (1950-1991) in Olmsted County, MN, were reviewed for the presence and type of musculoskeletal manifestations, their relationship to the onset and course of GCA, and their response to treatment.
Results: Fifty-three patients (41%) developed polymyalgia rheumatica: 23 before, 17 concurrently with, and 13 after the diagnosis of GCA. Thirty patients (23%) developed 1 or more peripheral musculoskeletal manifestations. These included peripheral synovitis in 23 patients (6 of whom fulfilled criteria for rheumatoid arthritis), distal extremity swelling with pitting edema in 13, distal swelling without pitting in 5, tenosynovitis in 6, and carpal tunnel syndrome in 2. Fifty-seven episodes of peripheral manifestations occurred in the 30 patients at different times during the course of GCA. In most, the onset of PMR and peripheral manifestations was within 2 years of the diagnosis of GCA.
Conclusion: Musculoskeletal symptoms in GCA are common and varied. Most appear linked temporally to the underlying GCA, indicating that the nature of this illness and its clinical expression are broader than often considered.