ABSTRACT Ninety patients with giant cell arteritis were followed up 9–16 years (median 11.3 years) after diagnosis. The mean duration of corticosteroid therapy was 5.8 years (range 0–12.8 years). Together, the patients had received corticosteroids for 492 patient-years. Five years after diagnosis, 43% of the patients were on corticosteroid therapy. After 9 years, 15 of 60 surviving patients (25%) were still being treated with 1.25–10 mg of prednisolone daily (median dose 5 mg). The relapse rate was about 50%, regardless of the time after diagnosis, when an attempt to withdraw the treatment was made. Forty-six per cent of the relapses occurred within one month and 96% within one year of the end of treatment. Most of the flare-ups occurred during the first year of therapy and in 55% of the patients on a prednisolone dosage of 5 mg or less. We did not find any increase in morbidity in our patients compared to the general population. Nor did we see any significant complications which we could attribute to the steroid treatment.