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Polymyalgia Rheumatica: A Disease Which Mimics Arthritis

Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is an illness which causes severe muscle pain, aching, and stiffness. This disorder usually affects women over the age of 50 years. Some evidence suggests that the illness may be inherited. Patients with PMR suffer severe pain in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, arms, lower back, hips, and thighs. Occasionally, swelling of the joints may occur, which mimics certain forms of arthritis.

The pain is worse in the morning, and often makes getting out of bed a very difficult task.
By the time I see a patient with PMR, they are usually very depressed from being in so much pain for a long period of time. These patients may have led very active lives prior to their illness, and often feel frustrated at not being able to accomplish previously simple tasks.

The diagnosis of PMR requires a variety of medical information, including blood tests. One blood test, called the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, can be very helpful in confirming the diagnosis.

Closely associated with PMR is a disorder called Temporal Arteritis. This serious illness, which afflicts a percentage of patients with PMR, results from inflamed blood vessels. This inflammation may produce headaches, visual problems, or even blindness.

Treatment for Polymyalgia Rheumatica centers around the use of medications which are able to reduce inflammation, and often begin to give significant relief within 24 to 48 hours.


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All medications have potential side effects, risks and interactions with other medications as well as over the counter drugs. Not all medications are right for all patients. You should always check with your physician or health care provider prior to the use of any medication.