Epidemiological and clinical features of giant cell arteritis in Tunisia

Eur J Intern Med. 2009 Mar;20(2):208-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2008.07.030. Epub 2008 Sep 2.


Background: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a systemic vasculitis of the elderly that could result in vision loss or even be life threatening. Unlike western countries, this disease is considered exceptional in Tunisia.

Objective: The aims of this study were to determine epidemiological and clinical features of GCA in Tunisian population and to identify management difficulties.

Patients and methods: A multicentric study of 96 patients in whom GCA was diagnosed between 1986 and 2003. All patients fulfilled the ACR criteria for classification of GCA.

Results: The majority of cases (77%) were diagnosed since 1994. The male/female ratio was 0.88 and the mean age at the time of diagnosis was 70.8+/-7.7 years. Clinical features were characterized by gradual onset in 64.4% of cases. The most frequent clinical manifestations were headache (91.7%), abnormalities in temporal arteries (85.4%), severe ischemic manifestations (80.2%), constitutional symptoms (75%), and polymyalgia rheumatica (56.3%). Biological inflammatory syndrome was noted in all patients. Temporal artery biopsy established histological diagnosis in 73% of cases. All patients were treated by corticosteroids. Remission was obtained in 45.6%. Relapses occurred in 40.4% of cases and 30 patients were still receiving corticosteroids at the time of study. Four patients died and irreversible ischemic complications were noted in 15.6% of cases. Steroid adverse effects occurred in 56 patients.

Conclusion: GCA is not exceptional to Tunisia. It occurs amongst elderly patients with no female predominance noticed. Clinical features are similar to those reported in other series.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / epidemiology*
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • Temporal Arteries / pathology*
  • Tunisia / epidemiology