- It affects about 1 in 200 people over age 50.
- The average age of onset is 70.
- 10-15% of people diagnosed with PMR also have Giant Cell Arteritis
What is Polymyalgia Rheumatica
PMR is a condition generally seen people over 50. It affects the muscles and upper body joints, typically the shoulders, neck and hips.
What causes it?
Just like all the others the cause is unknown, but both heredity and the aging process are suspected.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are joint and muscle pain of the shoulders, upper arms, neck and hips. Fatigue, weight loss and depression may also occur.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis is difficult because the symptoms so often resemble those of other types of arthritis. X-rays and other tests may be done to rule out other causes, the x-rays are typically normal. The ESR (sed rate) is usually elevated with PMR.
How is it treated?
Untreated PMR generally goes away on it?s own in a couple of years. Milder symptoms can be treated with aspirin or other NSAIDs. More cases of PMR require the use of steroids. Treatment duration may last from 6 months to 2 years. Symptoms may return after treatment is discontinued.
NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are only used in mild cases. Since they must be used long term, stomach problems may occur.
Corticosteroids like prednisone are usually used to control severe symptoms. The dose is increased until the symptoms subside. The dose is then usually lowered to the least possible effective amount.
What research is being done?
Researchers studying possible causes of polymyalgia rheumatica are looking into the role of genetic factors, immune system abnormalities, and environmental factors. Scientists also are exploring other treatments. Preliminary findings suggest that low doses of methotrexate, a drug used to treat some other rheumatic disorders, controls polymyalgia rheumatica and may be an effective treatment for giant cell arteritis.
Some of the related information found on Arthritis Insight:
For more information:
NIAMS Questions and Answers about Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis
Senior Health Advisor, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, Copyright © Clinical Reference Systems 1999
American College of Rheumatology