Polymyalgia rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness. The pain and stiffness often occur in your shoulders, neck, upper arms and hips. Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica (pol-ee-my-AL-juh roo-MA-ti-kah) usually begin quickly, within two weeks.

Most people who develop polymyalgia rheumatica are older than 65. It rarely affects people younger than 50.

Anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids improve the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica, but these drugs require careful monitoring for serious side effects.

Polymyalgia rheumatica is related to another inflammatory disorder called giant cell arteritis, which can cause headaches, vision difficulties, jaw pain and other symptoms. It's possible to have both of these conditions together.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

The signs and symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica usually occur on both sides of the body and may include:

  • Aches or pain in your shoulders (often the first symptom)
  • Aches or pain in your neck, upper arms, buttocks, hips or thighs
  • Stiffness in affected areas, particularly in the morning or after being inactive for a long time, such as a long car ride
  • Limited range of motion in affected areas
  • Pain or stiffness in wrists or knees (less common)

You may also have more general signs and symptoms, including:

  • Mild or low-grade fever
  • Fatigue
  • A general feeling of not being well (malaise)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Depression

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you experience aches, pains or stiffness that:

  • Is new
  • Disrupts your sleep
  • Limits your ability to do activities of daily living, such as getting dressed or going up and down stairs

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