Polymyalgia rheumatica is a
condition that can cause stiffness and aching in the shoulders, neck, and hips. Sometimes it
also causes swelling in joints such as the knees, hands, and feet. It usually occurs in people
age 50 and older.
Giant cell arteritis is a condition that can cause headaches, trouble seeing, and jaw or arm pain. This condition affects blood vessels, usually in the head and sometimes in the neck. Blood vessels in the brain arenot affected. Giant cell arteritis is sometimes called "temporal arteritis" because it often affects a blood vessel in the temple on the side of the head.
Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis are two different conditions. But they sometimes occur together. Usually, these conditions last between 1 and 3 years.
The most common symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are:
● Pain and stiffness in the shoulders, hips, neck, or upper part of the body that is usually worse in the morning – These symptoms occur on both sides of the body and last 30 minutes or longer after getting up.
● Swelling and stiffness in the knees, hands, wrists, ankles, or feet
● Feeling tired
● Weight loss
The most common symptoms of giant cell arteritis are:
● Headaches – The pain is often over the temples (sides of the forehead) but can also be in the front or back of the head. Some people also have pain in the scalp when it is touched.
● Pain in the jaw, especially after chewing or talking
● Pain or weakness in the arm, especially when you move your arm
● Trouble seeing clearly, or trouble seeing out of 1 eye
● Cough (that is new) or sore throat
Other symptoms of giant cell arteritis can include:
● Feeling tired
● Weight loss
Yes. If your doctor or
nurse suspects that you have polymyalgia rheumatica or giant cell arteritis, he or she will do an
exam and order blood tests. He or she might also order an X-ray, MRI, or other imaging test.
Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of your body.
To check for giant cell arteritis, your doctor might order a test called a biopsy. During a biopsy, a doctor takes a small piece of a blood vessel from under your skin on the side of the head. He or she then looks at the tissue under a microscope.
rheumatica and giant cell arteritis are treated with medicines called steroids. (These arenot the
same as the steroids some athletes take illegally. These steroids reduce swelling and ease
pain.) Many people feel better after taking their first dose. But most people need to take steroids
for 1 to 2 years.
Steroids can have side effects, so your doctor will want to make sure you are on the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time possible.
Doctors might also prescribe other types of medicines for people with giant cell arteritis. For example, most people with giant cell arteritis also take a low dose ofaspirin every day to prevent vision loss or a stroke.
It is important to follow all of your doctor's instructions about treatment
and follow-up. For example, if you have giant cell arteritis, your doctor might order a test called
a chest X-ray every year to check the blood vessels in your chest.
It's also important to let your doctor know if you have side effects from the treatment or if you develop new symptoms.