What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica is a disorder that results in severe pain and stiffness of large muscle groups in the body. Although its exact cause is not known, it may be due to a disruption in the function of the body’s immune system. Polymyalgia rheumatica primarily affects adults over the age of 50, and women are affected twice as often as men. Overall, the condition affects 0.7% of adults over the age of 50, or approximately 1.9 million adults in the United States (Source: NIAMS).

Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica tend to appear suddenly and are usually moderate to severe in intensity. Muscle pain and stiffness are the characteristic symptoms. The neck, hips and shoulders are the areas most commonly affected.

Making a diagnosis of polymyalgia rheumatica can be difficult because there are no specific tests to confirm the presence of the disease. In addition, the diagnosis is sometimes missed or delayed because the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica can be similar to those occurring in other conditions, including influenza, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Most people who are affected need medical treatment to reduce the severity of their symptoms. Your health care provider may prescribe medications to help you manage your symptoms. The prognosis for polymyalgia rheumatica is favorable, as the disease often resolves spontaneously after a few years.

Seek prompt medical care if you have concerns about muscle aches and pains that are persistent or worsening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience sudden onset of severe muscle pain or weakness, particularly with a fever.


What are the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica?

Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica primarily affect the muscles and connective tissues, although symptoms may also involve other body systems. Some of the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are vague and nonspecific, such as fatigue and malaise. Because there is no definitive diagnostic test for the condition, your health care provider will consider all potential causes of your symptoms and may perform tests to rule out other disorders, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, that may be causing your symptoms.... Read more about polymyalgia rheumaticasymptoms


What causes polymyalgia rheumatica?

The cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is not known but may be related to a malfunction of the body’s immune system. Temporal arteritis, which occurs in 10% to 20% of those affected by polymyalgia rheumatica, is believed to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues because it targets them as foreign substances.... Read more about polymyalgia rheumaticacauses


How is polymyalgia rheumatica treated?

Medications to relieve pain and inflammation can be very effective for controlling the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. Many people with polymyalgia rheumatica will take medications for a year or more. Your health care professional can develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It is important to precisely follow your treatment plan for polymyalgia rheumatica to help minimize your symptoms and decrease the chance of your symptoms recurring over time. Medications used to treat polymyalgia rheumatica include:... Read more about polymyalgia rheumaticatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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