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HealthInfo Canterbury

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory syndrome, which causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder, neck, and hip areas, mainly in people over the age of 60. Some people with PMR develop a more serious condition called giant cell arteritis (GCA).

Do I have polymyalgia rheumatica?

The symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica vary between affected people, but generally include:

If you are worried about any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your GP.

Important!

If your symptoms include a sudden headache, tenderness around your scalp, or loss of vision, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms and how long you've had them. They may want to make sure you don't have giant cell arteritis, and may want to rule out other health conditions, such as fibromyalgia or osteoarthritis.

There is no single test to diagnose polymyalgia rheumatica, but your doctor will probably want you to have some blood tests to look for inflammation in your body. A diagnosis is usually made based on an assessment on your symptoms combined with the blood test results. If your doctor is unsure about a diagnosis, especially if you are younger than 50, they may refer you to see a rheumatologist at Christchurch Hospital, as you may need more tests.

Treatment

If your doctor diagnoses you with polymyalgia rheumatica, they will start you on a steroid medication called prednisone straight away. This medication works by reducing the inflammation, and you should see an improvement within 24 to 48 hours. Your doctor will monitor your progress, to check if your symptoms are improving, and to adjust the dose if necessary.

You should see an improvement in your symptoms within a few days, and you'll need to see your doctor again for monitoring and a check-up, and to see how the medication is working for you.

You'll probably need to keep taking this medication for two to three years.

As steroids can reduce your bone density and may cause osteoporosis, your doctor will usually give you advice about trying to prevent this.

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Page reference: 78690

Review key: HIPMR-18669