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Polymyalgia rheumatica

Introduction

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and inflammation in the muscles around the shoulders, neck and hips.

This page covers:

Symptoms

Causes

Treatment

Giant cell arteritis

Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica

The main symptom is muscle stiffness in the morning that lasts longer than 45 minutes. It may also cause other symptoms, including:

  • extreme tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • depression

See your GP if you have pain and stiffness for more than a week. They'll try to find out what's causing it.

Diagnosing polymyalgia rheumatica can be difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of many other conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions will need to be ruled out before polymyalgia rheumatic is diagnosed.

Read more about the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica and diagnosing polymyalgia rheumatica.

What causes polymyalgia rheumatica?

The cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is unknown, but a combination of genetic and environmental factors is thought to be responsible.

Polymyalgia rheumatica is age-related. Most people diagnosed with it are over 70, and it's very rare in people younger than 50. It's also more common in women than men.

It's estimated 1 in every 1,200 people in the UK develop the condition every year.

Treating polymyalgia rheumatica

corticosteroid medication called prednisolone is the main treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica. It's used to help relieve the symptoms.

You'll initially be prescribed a moderate dose of prednisolone, which will be gradually reduced over time.

Most people with polymyalgia rheumatica will need to take a course of corticosteroid treatment that lasts 18 months to two years to prevent their symptoms returning.

Read more about treating polymyalgia rheumatica.

Giant cell arteritis

Around one in five people with polymyalgia rheumatica develop a more serious condition called giant cell arteritis, in which the arteries in the head and neck become inflamed.

Symptoms of giant cell arteritis include:

  • a severe headache that develops suddenly – your scalp may also feel sore or tender
  • pain in the jaw muscles when eating
  • problems with sight – such as double vision or loss of vision

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your GP immediately, or call NHS 111 or an urgent care service.

Unlike polymyalgia rheumatica, giant cell arteritis requires immediate medical attention. This is because it can cause permanent sight loss if not treated promptly.