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What is Polymyalgia rheumatica?
Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disease that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissues. The condition causes flu-like symptoms such as aching and stiffness which can be felt throughout the body. Unlike many other rheumatological conditions, pain and stiffness are not concentrated in the joints.
The causes of polymyalgia rheumatica are unknown, although genetics and environmental/seasonal triggers are believed to play a role. Those over the age of 65, and especially Caucasian women, are particularly at risk for developing polymyalgia rheumatica.
Symptoms and causes
The aching and stiffness associated with polymyalgia rheumatica typically affect people older than 65; patients are rarely under 50. Symptoms tend to appear quickly and may be worse in the morning. Stiffness and tenderness are common in the upper arms, neck, shoulders, hips, thighs, or buttocks.
This stiffness can become worse due to lack of use, which can also result in increased muscle weakness. In some cases of polymyalgia rheumatica, temporal arteritis may develop, which is a serious condition involving inflammation of the lining of arteries.
Physicians commonly utilize blood tests and ultrasounds to diagnose polymyalgia rheumatica. While there is no cure, the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica usually resolve within a few days of treatment. Pain and stiffness are commonly treated with corticosteroids, such as prednisone, and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen. It is recommended that patients increase their intake of calcium and Vitamin D as well.
Exercise, rest and maintaining a healthy diet are also recommended. Older or particularly affected patients may benefit from using assistive devices to help them navigate daily potential pitfalls.