Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) & Giant Cell Arteritis (Temporal Arteritis)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

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Can polymyalgia be prevented?

There is no prevention for polymyalgia rheumatica. Prevention measures focus on preventing side effects of medications used to treat polymyalgia rheumatica.

What are complications of polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica can lead to loss of function of joints if untreated. This generally is temporary, but frozen shoulders can be a further complication. Additional complications can result from medications used to treat polymyalgia rheumatica. These include stomach bleeding or kidney impairment from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cataracts, bruising of skin, and osteoporosis from cortisone medications. Therefore, the lowest possible doses of medications are best.

What is giant cell arteritis?

Giant cell arteritis, also called temporal arteritis or cranial arteritis, is a serious disease characterized by inflammation of the walls of the blood vessels (vasculitis). The vessels affected are the arteries (hence the name "arteritis"). Giant cell arteritis occurs in 10% to 15% of patients with polymyalgia rheumatica. The age of affected patients is over 50 years of age, identical to that of polymyalgia rheumatica. The onset of giant cell arteritis may be years before, after, or without accompanying polymyalgia rheumatica. Giant cell arteritis is abbreviated GCA.

What causes giant cell arteritis?

The cause of giant cell arteritis is not known. Recent research is looking into possible infectious causes, and some information suggests a possible relationship to the microbe chlamydia. This will require further studies for verification.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016

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