Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica, often called PMR, is a disease that causes pain, stiffness and limited mobility in the neck, shoulders, arms, hips, trunk, pelvic girdle and thighs.

This condition, of unknown origin, is mostly suffered by people over 50. The pain, which does not cause swelling, appears after rest, usually at night. Also, inactivity, such as a long car trip or sitting in the same position for a long time, can cause stiffness to return. In addition, it is very common for patients to have problems raising their upper arms above their shoulders.

Disease prognosis

Sometimes symptoms may cause patients to stop working and they may need the help of a family member at home. Fortunately, for most people, PMR disappears after one to two years of treatment.

Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica

Pain and stiffness in the shoulders and neck are the main symptoms of this disease. This pain can often be transmitted to the hip. Fatigue can be another characteristic symptom. People suffering from this disease have more and more difficulty getting out of bed and starting their daily activities. Other symptoms include:

  • Hair loss that has happened because of a loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Fever

Fever, depression and hair loss can be symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica

Medical tests for polymyalgia rheumatica

Laboratory tests are not enough to diagnose PMR. Most patients suffering from this disease have high markers of inflammation, a high erythrocyte sedimentation rate and a high level of C-reactive protein. Other markers for this condition include:

  • Abnormal levels of blood proteins
  • An abnormal white blood cell count
  • Anaemia (low blood count)

What are the causes of polymyalgia rheumatica?

The cause of the disease is unknown but it usually develops in people over 50 years of age. One of the diseases that can trigger PMR is temporal arteritis, a condition in which the blood vessels that carry blood to the head and the eyes become inflamed. Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose PMR and it can often be confused with rheumatoid arthritis in an older person.

Can it be prevented?

There is currently no form of prevention.

Treatments for polymyalgia rheumatica

The most effective treatment for PMR is low dose corticosteroids. Small amounts can relieve symptoms in one or two days. The dose can be slowly reduced over time. It is necessary to continue with treatment for one to two years and longer in some patients. The corticosteroids may cause a wide range of side effects, so regular check-ups are necessary to monitor these effects.

What specialist treats it?

The specialist who treats polymyalgia rheumatica is a rheumatologist. Find a rheumatologist in your area through Top Doctors.

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