Metabolic features and glucocorticoid-induced comorbidities in patients with giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica in a Dutch and Danish cohort

Idil Esen, Suzanne Arends, Berit Dalsgaard Nielsen, Philip Therkildsen, Ib Hansen, Anna van 't Ende, Peter Heeringa, Annemieke Boots, Ellen Hauge, Elisabeth Brouwer, Yannick van Sleen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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OBJECTIVES: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) are age-associated inflammatory diseases that frequently overlap. Both diseases require long-term treatment with glucocorticoids (GCs), often associated with comorbidities. Previous population-based cohort studies reported that an unhealthier metabolic profile might prevent the development of GCA. Here, we report metabolic features before start of treatment and during treatment in patients with GCA and PMR.

METHODS: In the Dutch GCA/PMR/SENEX (GPS) cohort, we analysed metabolic features and prevalence of comorbidities (type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, obesity and cataract) in treatment-naïve patients with GCA (n=50) and PMR (n=42), and compared those with the population-based Lifelines cohort (n=91). To compare our findings in the GPS cohort, we included data from patients with GCA (n=52) and PMR (n=25) from the Aarhus cohort. Laboratory measurements, comorbidities and GC use were recorded for up to 5 years in the GPS cohort.

RESULTS: Glycated haemoglobin levels tended to be higher in treatment-naïve patients with GCA, whereas high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein and cholesterol levels were lower compared with the Lifelines population. Data from the Aarhus cohort were aligned with the findings obtained in the GPS cohort. Presence of comorbidities at baseline did not predict long-term GC requirement. The incidence of diabetes, obesity and cataract among patients with GCA increased upon initiation of GC treatment.

CONCLUSION: Data from the GCA and PMR cohorts imply a metabolic dysregulation in treatment-naïve patients with GCA, but not in patients with PMR. Treatment with GCs led to the rise of comorbidities and an unhealthier metabolic profile, stressing the need for prednisone-sparing targeted treatment in these vulnerable patients.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11-Jan-2023


  • Humans
  • Giant Cell Arteritis/drug therapy
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica/complications
  • Glucocorticoids/adverse effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2/complications
  • Obesity/complications
  • Cataract/epidemiology
  • Denmark

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