Arthritis and Joint Disease Information for Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia Rheumatica is a condition that causes widespread stiffness and aching in older adults, but can be completely abolished with the use of low doses of prednisone.

Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica include:

  • They begin abruptly over days or weeks, sometimes even overnight.
  • Aching and stiffness is worst in the upper arms, neck, and thighs – especially common is stiffness of the upper arms, with difficulty raising the arms above the shoulder.
  • Stiffness is worst on arising in the morning, and lasts an hour or two, or longer, but will decrease as a person is up and around – but then may return if there is inactivity.
  • Symptoms can interfere with activities of daily living, such as getting dressed in the morning, or getting up from a chair or in and out of a car during the day.

Also, Polymyalgia Rheumatica may occur with a serious disease of the blood vessels called giant cell arthritis.

If you have Polymyalgia Rheumatica and begin to experience headache or changes in vision, it is important to contact the doctor immediately.

Risk factors for Polymyalgia Rheumatica

While the cause of Polymyalgia Rheumatica is not known, the disease affects:

  • only adults over the age of 50 (and most commonly over the age of 60)
  • women slightly more than men
  • whites more than non-whites

Polymyalgia Rheumatica is not caused by medications, and should not be confused with aching that occasionally occurs with drugs called statins.

Diagnosis of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Tests for inflammation – the sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein – are usually elevated.

Treatment for Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia Rheumatica is treated with daily, low doses of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, which produce dramatic improvement in one to two weeks, sometimes even the next day. The dose of corticosteroids is then slowly tapered, and most patients’ medication can be stopped after a year or two.

Request an Appointment

For more information about Polymyalgia Rheumatica or to schedule an appointment with a Brigham and Women’s Hospital specialist, please call 1-800-294-9999 or use our online appointment request form.

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