• What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

    Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a condition that causes inflammation of large muscles. PMR mainly affects people over the age of 50.About 1 in 1,000 people over the age of 50 develop PMR each year. Women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

    What causes PMR?

    The cause of PMR is unknown. PMR does not arise from side effects of medications. PMR has a particular tendency to involve the shoulder and hip joints, and the bursa around these joints.

     

    What are the symptoms of PMR?

    If you have PMR you probably have severe and painful stiffness in the morning, especially in your shoulders and thighs. You may find that the stiffness in your arms is so bad that you cannot get out of bed without help, or you may have real difficulty dressing yourself or climbing stairs. It is also common to feel generally unwell or even to run a slight fever.

     

    What tests are needed to diagnose PMR?

    The diagnosis of PMR depends on your doctor taking a thorough history of your illness, followed by an examination and relevant tests. If PMR is suspected, your doctor will usually arrange for you to have a blood test called the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Your doctor may also arrange for tests in order to rule out other diseases.

     

    What is the treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica?

    A steroid medicine such as prednisolone is the usual treatment. Steroids work by reducing inflammation. Treatment usually works quickly, within a few days. After starting treatment, the improvement in symptoms over 2-3 days is often quite dramatic. Treatment is usually started with 15 to 20 mg per day. This is then reduced gradually to a lower ‘maintenance’ dose. Treatment is often required for 2 years or longer, and some people with PMR need to remain on small doses of steroid tablets for many years.

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