Definition of Polymialgia
Polymialgia rheumatica is classified as an inflammatory disorder that results in muscle pain and stiffness. The main areas it affects are your neck, shoulders, arms, thighs and hips. The symptoms of polymiaglia rheumatica usually begin quickly over a few days.
Polymialgia rheumatica rarely affects people younger than 50 years of age. The majority of people who develop polymialgia rheumatica are older than 65.
The common approach of treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids. And while these may help the symptoms of polymialgia rheumatica, these drugs require careful monitoring for serious side effects.
Giant cell arteritis is another inflammatory disorder than is related to and can coexist with polymialgia rheumatica. It can cause headaches, visual changes and jaw pain.
Symptoms of Polymialgia
The symptoms and signs of polymialgia rheumatica include:
- Stiffness in affected areas, particularly in the morning or after prolonged inactivity, such as a sitting down
- Aches or pain in your shoulder area (this is often the first symptom)
- Aches or pain in your neck, buttocks, lower back, hips or thighs
- Tenderness in your upper arms
- The motion of affected areas will be limited
- Pain or stiffness in distal extremities such as wrists or knees is less common
When the stiffness and pain first appear, it is not uncommon to have more general signs and symptoms, including:
- Low-grade fever
- Malaise (a general feeling of not being well)
- Unintentional weight loss
- Loss of appetite
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you experience aches, pains or stiffness that:
- Limits your ability when doing your daily activities
- Disrupts or interferes with your sleep
- Is a new symptom
Causes of polymialgia rheumatica
The cause of polymialgia rheumatica is not well understood. The pain and stiffness result from the activity of inflammatory cells and proteins that are normally a part of your body’s disease-fighting immune system.
The causative factors of polymialgia rheumatic are not very well understood. A normal process of the body’s disease fighting immune system results in the activity of inflammatory cells and proteins which result in pain and stiffness.
Normally inflammation is usually a response to injury or disease, however, in some disorders called rheumatic diseases the inflammatory activity occurs when there is no apparent need for the response.
With polymialgia rheumatica, the inflammation seems to be concentrated in tissues near the affected joints. The pain in the muscles associated with the disorder can be known as referred pain or pain from one area of the body that can be felt in another.
Research is showing that a combination of inherited (genetic) factors and external (environmental) factors contribute to the onset of disease.
- Genetic factors. A gene or genes — not yet discovered — may make a person more likely to develop polymialgia rheumatica. The prevalence of the disorder among people of Northern European heritage, patterns of family history of the disease and evidence from some genetic research indicate the influence of inheritance.
- Environmental factors. Certain features of the disorder suggest that an infectious disease may be a contributing factor. For example, the sudden onset of symptoms would be expected from an infectious agent such as a virus. Also, there are often cycles in the appearance of new cases in the population, this factor that would be consistent with the normal cycle of contagious viral infections. The studies are still inconclusive but several relatively common viral infections have been identified as possible triggers for the disease.
Polymialgia rheumatica Risk factors and complications
Risk factors for polymialgia rheumatica include:
- Age. polymialgia rheumatica affects older adults almost exclusively, the disease usually affects those over the age of 50.The average age of onset of the disease is 70.
- Sex. Women are about twice more likely to develop the disorder than males.
- Ethnicity. People of Northern European origin — are more likely to suffer from polymialgia rheumatica than are people of other ethnicities.
Polymialgia rheumatica can greatly affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. The pain and stiffness often contributes to difficulties with these tasks:
- Getting dressed or putting on a jacket or coat
- Getting out of bed, standing up from a chair or getting out of a car
- Bathing, combing your hair or performing other tasks related to personal hygiene
These complications can affect the sufferer’s health, social relationships, physical activity and overall well-being.