Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arthritis
Polymyalgia Rheumatica is a rheumatic disorder characterized by pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints. It is more often seen in women above 60 years of age but men are also frequently afflicted.
Causes and symptoms: Polymyalgia Rheumatica mainly causes muscle pain and stiffness of the neck, shoulder and hips after long periods of rest or inactivity. Other general symptoms include weight loss, fever, tiredness and anemia. The exact cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is not known. It is mostly linked to giant cell arteritis which is a more serious disease and involves inflammation of the blood vessels in the head. Giant cell arteritis can cause heart attack, stroke or blindness. Thus a patient of polymyalgia rheumatic should always be watchful of the symptoms of giant cell arteritis as early diagnosis can prevent serious complication due to the disease and may lead to early recovery. The symptoms of giant cell arteritis include headache, vision, and balance and coordination problem.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis of Polymyalgia Rheumatica is based on medical history, physical examination and symptoms. The diagnostic tests may include tests for C-reactive protein, rheumatoid factor, hemoglobin, hematocrit and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Giant cell arteritis is confirmed by biopsy of the temporal artery over the temple area.
Treatment: Corticosteroids are the drug of choice for the treatment of both polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis. The symptoms usually go away in 6 months to two years with treatment. In the meantime, we are experts in avoiding cortisone side effects by minimizing dosages. Medication is then gradually reduced and stopped. The condition may reappear and require medication again.
This information is not meant as individualized medical advice. It is provided solely for education. Our practice would be pleased to discuss your unique circumstances and needs as they relate to these topics.