Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a painful condition caused by inflammation in the body. It is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. However, more research is needed to identify the exact causes of the disease. PMR is often misdiagnosed since many of its symptoms mimic those of other autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica
Symptoms of PMR can vary from person to person, especially if there are co-existing conditions.
The most common symptoms include:
- Mild fatigue
- Poor appetite
- Pain and stiffness in the neck, upper and lower back, shoulders, hips and buttocks
- Joint pain and stiffness that gets worse in the morning or after periods of rest
PMR can co-occur with another, more serious condition called Giant Cell Arteritis, a form of vasculitis that develops primarily in older people. This condition causes headache, fever, blurred vision, pain in the jaw, scalp tenderness, and pain during exercise. If left untreated, Giant Cell Arteritis can cause blindness. Both PMR and GCA are thought to be caused by the body’s own immune system attacking healthy cells.
Risk Factors for Polymyalgia Rheumatica
The vast majority of cases of PMR occur in people aged 65 and over. The condition rarely occurs in people under 50 years of age. Women are diagnosed at least twice as often as men, and Caucasian people are more likely to develop the disease than other demographics. Because of its prevalence among seniors, the disease is thought to be connected to the aging process. There is also some evidence to suggest that genetic and environmental factors may increase a person’s risk of developing PMR.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Diagnosis
The disease is diagnosed through a combination of physical examination and testing. Your doctor will perform a joint examination to assess your range of motion and the amount of stiffness you’re experiencing.
The most common methods for diagnosing PMR are blood tests used to check inflammation levels in the body:
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) Test – This test measures the rate at which blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube filled with whole blood. Red blood cells that settle quickly can indicate inflammation.
- C-Reactive Protein Test – This test checks for C-reactive protein, a protein produced by the liver. Levels of this protein may be higher in individuals experiencing inflammation.
Your doctor may also order ultrasound testing to examine inflammation and synovitis in the joints.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Treatments
Treatment for PMR is aimed at reducing painful symptoms and flare ups. However, most individuals with the condition experience repeat flare-ups, even after treatment. The most common treatments for PMR include:
- Vitamin Supplements
- Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
Different treatments may be recommended to different individuals, based on coexisting conditions and the severity of symptoms.
Talk to a rheumatologist about your treatment options today.