Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis

Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis

Polymyalgia Rheumatica is a rheumatic disorder characterized by pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints. It is more often seen in women above 50 years of age.

Causes and symptoms

Polymyalgia Rheumatica mainly causes muscle pain and stiffness of the neck, shoulder and hips after long periods of rest or inactivity. Other general symptoms include weight loss, fever, tiredness and anaemia. The exact cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is not known. It is mostly linked to giant cell arteritis which is a more serious disease and involves inflammation of the blood vessels in the head. Giant cell arteritis can cause heart attack, stroke or blindness. Thus a patient of polymyalgia rheumatic should always be watchful of the symptoms of giant cell arteritis as early diagnosis can prevent serious complication due to the disease and may lead to early recovery. The symptoms of giant cell arteritis include headache, vision, and balance and coordination problem.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Polymyalgia Rheumatica is based on medical history, physical examination and symptoms. The diagnostic tests may include tests for C-reactive protein, rheumatoid factor, haemoglobin, haematocrit and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Giant cell arteritis is confirmed by biopsy of the temporal artery over the temple area.

Treatment

Corticosteroids are the drug of choice for the treatment of both polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis. The symptoms usually go away in 6 months to two years with treatment. Medication is then gradually reduced and stopped. The condition may reappear and require medication again.