Since most of us seldom, if ever, have heard of this disease, you may ask, what is it? Let’s break it down to find out the meaning of this word. Poly means many, myo means muscle, algia means pain, and rheumatica refers to rheumatism. Now we can see that this refers to rheumatism or inflammation of the musculoskeletal system. For short, it is called PMR, so for future references, we will refer to this term.
As stated in the book, “Medical Health Guide,” PMR is a unique inflammatory condition of older adults that causes pain and stiffness of muscle groups around the neck, shoulder, and back. It is a rare condition that almost never occurs before the age of fifty, and rarely before the age of sixty-five.
Although this condition is considered to be relatively rare, it is important to be aware of it because it is related to another condition. This other condition is known as temporal arteritis, which could turn into permanent blindness.
Temporal arteritis may develop as an isolated condition, or it may appear as part of PMR. It is stated in the chapter of the above named book that twenty to fifty percent of patients with PMR will have some evidence of associated temporal arteritis. This makes it more difficult to plan for treatments. This condition shows up as inflammation of one or both arteries in the temples. This inflammation may block the blood vessels that supply the eyes, the brain, or the heart. This blockage can lead to blindness, stroke, or a heart attack.
According to “The American Association Encyclopedia of Medicine,” the diagnosis, which is often difficult to confirm, is based on a physical examination, the patient’s history, and blood tests. If temporal arteritis is suspected, a biopsy may be performed on an artery near the temple. PMR disease, without the added temporal arteritis, usually lasts approximately a year, and then subsides spontaneously.
Proper diagnosis is often delayed because early indications are not that pronounced. The symptoms are not much different from other types of arthritis and rheumatism. When it is finally recognized, PMR can be treated immediately with steroid drugs. Small doses of corticosteroid drugs (higher dosage when temporal arteritis is present) can be taken. This treatment is known to bring about improvement within a few days.
Even after a person is cured from this disease, it is important for this individual to consult a doctor if a new one-sided headache develops. It is also important if a person has blurred vision, double vision, or spotty loss of vision.
The final suggestion in “Medical and Health Guide,” is this: “If you are receiving steroid treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica or temporal arteritis, do not omit the medication on you own, since the condition may flare up and eye damage can follow.”
Source: “Medical and Health Guide”
“The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine”