Giant cell arteritis: epidemiology, diagnosis, and management

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2010 Dec;12(6):436-42. doi: 10.1007/s11926-010-0135-9.


Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also called temporal arteritis, is a vasculitis that affects large and middle-sized blood vessels--with predisposition to the involvement of cranial arteries derived from the carotid artery--in individuals older than 50 years of age. Familial aggregation of GCA has been observed. Incidence of GCA is higher in white individuals than those of other ethnicities, particularly those of Scandinavian background. A temporal artery biopsy is the gold standard test for the diagnosis of GCA. Several imaging modalities, in particular ultrasonography, are useful in the diagnosis of GCA. Corticosteroids are the cornerstone of treatment in GCA. Alternative, steroid-sparing drugs, particularly methotrexate, should be considered in GCA patients with severe corticosteroid-related side effects and/or in those who require prolonged corticosteroid therapy due to relapses of the disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Giant Cell Arteritis* / diagnosis
  • Giant Cell Arteritis* / drug therapy
  • Giant Cell Arteritis* / epidemiology
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Temporal Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Arteries / pathology*
  • Ultrasonography


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Methotrexate