Polymyalgia rheumatica is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects primarily the elderly. About 15 percent of individuals affected with polymyalgia rheumatica also have giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis). Although there are several similarities with some clinical manifestations and onset of age, the relationship between polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis has not been clearly established. It is thought to be triggered by a viral or bacterial infection with genetics playing a role. Polymyalgia rheumatica is a clinical diagnosis that is based on the symptoms of the patient and exclusion of other diseases. Other helpful tests include C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. The treatment of polymyalgia rheumatica may involve the use of corticosteroids, methotrexate, painkillers, and more.
This condition is more commonly seen among northern Europeans, those 50 years old or older and those with giant cell arteritis. In the United States, it is estimated that there are 52.5 cases per 100,000 individuals who are 50 years or older. The prevalence is about 0.5 to 0.7 percent. Globally, the frequency of the disease varies in each country. In Europe, the number of cases decreases from north to south where there are many cases in Scandinavia while the numbers are low in Mediterranean countries. It mostly affects whites compared to other ethnic groups. It is also more commonly seen among females and advanced age. The name polymyalgia rheumatica is of Greek origin which translates to “pain in many muscles”.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Symptom #1: Pain and Stiffness
Pain is defined as a distressing feeling that is caused by a damaging or intense stimulus. It is an unpleasant experience where there may be potential tissue damage. Joint stiffness can occur due to pain or loss of range of motion. In polymyalgia rheumatica, the pain and stiffness can range from moderate to severe. It usually affects the neck, upper arms, shoulders, thighs, and hips.
This can impact the quality of life for patients as it hinders daily activity especially after waking up in the morning. The pain can also be felt in the buttocks and groin area. In more than 50% of patients, there is difficulty getting up from bed, difficulty standing up from a chair or toilet, and difficulty completing daily routines.