Polymyalgia Rheumatica

General Information

The combination of pain and stiffness in the shoulders and upper arms and in the hips and thighs occurs in a disease called polymyalgia rheumatica. This disease usually affects people over age 50. This pain is persistent and progressive and can cause substantial disability. Weight loss and fever also may occur. There may be limitation of motion of involved muscles and joints. Involved shoulder and thigh muscles may be tender. Up to one fourth of patients with polymyalgia rheumatica also have a problem called temporal arteritis. This presents with symptoms of headache and has the potential for causing more severe complications such as blindness.

Important Points in Treatment
The use of medications called corticosteroids produces remarkable and rapid improvement in this disease. The required dose may be large enough to produce side effects. Careful followup with your physician is mandatory to ensure that you are receiving the maximum benefit from the drug with the minimum possibility of damage. Once the symptoms are controlled, therapy at a lower dose may be continued for a long period to suppress the disease and prevent its return.