POLYMYALGIA

 

GIANT CELL ARTERITIS

 

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Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory condition of unknown cause. It is recognised to be an autoimmune illness. It causes pain, tenderness and stiffness in the large muscles around the shoulders, hips and back. It uniquely affects people over the age of 50 with the peak being in the 7th and 8th decades of life. It tends to affect women more than men.

 

While some people recover after a year of treatment with corticosteroids (steroids) some individuals may have disease resistant to treatment and need long-term steroids.

 

Symptoms often appear very suddenly, over just a few days, or may develop more slowly. The pain is always developed around the shoulders and always equal on both sides. In addition, some individuals may develop neck and back pain and symmetrical hip pain. Typically, people find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Tasks that need raising the arms above shoulder level become difficult to perform (like washing hair or getting things out of overhead cupboards and shelves). In addition, people may suffer with:

  • Tiredness

  • Low mood

  • Night sweats

  • Fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

 

It is important to note that these symptoms are not unique to polymyalgia rheumatica. Your doctor may need to run tests to exclude conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, myositis and giant cell arteritis (GCA) prior to starting you on steroid treatment.

 

GCA is a disease known as ‘giant cell’ because of the presence of very large inflammatory cells in the wall of the arteries, causing them to swell and sometimes become occluded (obstruct an opening, orifice or passage).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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