Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is one of those vague arthritic diseases that is poorly understood and hard to diagnose. It is generally defined by the symptoms-pain in the muscles most commonly around the shoulders, arms, neck, and hips.
You have a greater chance of developing PMR if you are a white woman over 50. Other symptoms can include headache, fever, fatigue, anemia, and generally feeling bad. It is usually self-limiting and lasts from 1 to 5 years.
There is no specific test for Polymyalgia, but a blood test called a SED, or sedimentation rate, is often high. Tests for rheumatoid arthritis are normal.
While PMR is usually not a death-dealing disease, it can be very serious when paired with something called 'giant cell arteritis. This is an inflammation and death of the cells in the arteries. It occurs most often in the temporal artery near the eye but can occur anywhere in the body. If temporal arteritis is not treated, it can lead to blindness or stroke. Arteritis is usually diagnosed by a biopsy
No one understands the cause or relationship between Polymyalgia and giant cell arteritis, and it is thought to be an autoimmune disease.
Treatment is tailored to each individual. Corticosteroids, usually prednisone, are given to reduce the inflammation. The steroids may be started at high dosages and then reduced, If symptoms return. Patients may be kept on steroids over a period of time. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also used.
This is another of the group of vague diseases, that are hard to diagnose and painful. While not life threatening, it can be very painful and certainly diminish one's quality of life.