Peer Reviewed
Rheumatology clinic

Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis

Charles Inderjeeth
It is important not to miss a diagnosis of polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis because of the high risk of permanent blindness.
Key Points

    Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a common inflammatory condition of unknown aetiology. It is characterised by symmetrical stiffness of the limb girdles (shoulder and pelvic girdles) and neck. PMR is associated with giant cell arteritis (GCA; also known as temporal arteritis), a vasculitis affecting the cranial arteries. It characteristically presents with new-onset temporal headache with or without visual symptoms.

    PMR and GCA rarely affect patients under the age of 50 years and are characterised by:

    • constitutional symptoms, such as weight loss, fever and fatigue
    • an elevated acute-phase response – that is, an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP)
    • a typically rapid response to corticosteroids.
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