Objective: To evaluate the frequency of visual manifestations at presentation in an Italian population-based cohort of patients with biopsy-proven giant cell arteritis (GCA), and to investigate predictors for the development of permanent visual loss.
Methods: We identified 136 Reggio Emilia (Italy) residents with biopsy-proven GCA diagnosed between 1986 and 2002. Medical records of these 136 patients were reviewed, and demographic, clinical, and laboratory data were collected.Multivariate analysis with multiple logistic regression models was performed to identify the best predictors of visual loss.
Results: Visual manifestations developed in 41 patients (30.1%). Partial or total visual loss was observed in 26 patients (19.1%). Anterior ischemic optic neuropathy was seen in 24 patients, and 2 patients had central retinal artery occlusion. Unilateral vision loss occurred in 19 patients, and bilateral visual loss in 7. In 25 patients, visual loss developed before glucocorticoid therapy for GCA was started. The age at disease onset was significantly higher in patients with permanent visual loss compared with those without it. The frequency of systemic signs/symptoms and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein values at diagnosis were significantly lower in patients with permanent visual loss. By multivariate logistic regression, the only statistically significant predictor for the development of permanent visual loss was the absence of high levels of ESR at diagnosis (tertile 2: Odds ratio [OR] 0.08; tertile 3: OR 0.11). Other predictors included in the model were the absence of systemic manifestations (OR 0.24), an older age at disease diagnosis (quintile 5: OR 5.60), and the presence of an elevated platelet count at diagnosis (OR 4.99), however they were only of borderline statistical significance.
Conclusion: The proportion of Italian patients with GCA that developed visual loss was similar to that reported from other countries. The patients with low inflammatory response had a higher risk of visual loss.