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Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Corticosteroids for Polymyalgia Rheumatica or Giant Cell Arteritis
These are all
corticosteroid medicines that you take by mouth
(orally) in tablet form. Dexamethasone is available as a liquid.
These medicines can reduce
These medicines are usually used for
polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and
giant cell arteritis (GCA). They can quickly reduce
inflammation caused by these conditions. Higher doses of corticosteroids are
taken for giant cell arteritis than for polymyalgia rheumatica.
Most people who have polymyalgia
rheumatica or giant cell arteritis respond quickly to corticosteroid treatment. They can usually stop taking the medicine after 1 to 2 years. Some people keep
taking low doses of corticosteroids for several years to control symptoms such
as pain and stiffness.footnote 1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
With long-term use, common side effects
Uncommon side effects include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
Corticosteroids can keep your immune system from fighting infection. When you are taking this medicine (and even when you have finished taking it), try not to be around people who are sick. And make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations.
People who take corticosteroids for more than 2 to 3 months should take calcium and vitamin D supplements or other medicines, such as bisphosphonates, to prevent osteoporosis. For more information, see the Medications section of the topic Osteoporosis. Your doctor may want you to have a bone density test to check for osteoporosis.
Lower-dose corticosteroids cause
fewer side effects and have fewer long-term risks than do higher dosages. Your
doctor will give you as low a dose as possible to treat your condition. After
your symptoms have gone away and your lab tests are normal, your doctor will
slowly reduce your dosage over a period of months.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Hellmann DB (2013). Giant cell arteritis, polymyalgia
rheumatica, and Takayasu's arteritis. In GS Firestein et al., eds.,
Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp.
1461–1480. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofSeptember 9, 2014
Current as of:
September 9, 2014
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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