Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant-cell arteritis are closely related disorders that affect people of middle age and older. They frequently occur together. Both are syndromes of unknown cause, but genetic and environmental factors might have a role in their pathogenesis. The symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica seem to be related to synovitis of proximal joints and extra-articular synovial structures. Giant-cell arteritis primarily affects the aorta and its extracranial branches. The clinical findings in giant-cell arteritis are broad, but commonly include visual loss, headache, scalp tenderness, jaw claudication, cerebrovascular accidents, aortic arch syndrome, thoracic aorta aneurysm, and dissection. Glucocorticosteroids are the cornerstone of treatment of both polymyalgia rheumatica and giant-cell arteritis. Some patients have a chronic course and might need glucocorticosteroids for several years. Adverse events of glucocorticosteroids affect more than 50% of patients. Trials of steroid-sparing drugs have yielded conflicting results. A greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis should provide new targets for therapy.
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