What is Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is sometimes associated with a condition called giant cell arteritis (GCA), or temporal arteritis, which causes inflammation of the temporal arteries in your head.
These conditions share a number of common features, which is not surprising as they are all further examples of autoimmune disease. In each case the underlying pathology at the cellular level is the damage caused by free radicals, which results in systemic inflammation. Free radicals cause damage because they possess unstable oxygen molecules and it is the resulting damage from these molecules which produces systemic inflammation and the signs and symptoms of these diseases.
Who it Affects
Polymyalgia rheumatica commonly starts after the age of 60 (though it can start as early as 50) and affects women more than men.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Symptoms
The main symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are severe and painful stiffness, primarily occurring in the hips, thighs, upper arms, neck and shoulders and usually affecting both sides. PMR often strikes suddenly, appearing over a week or two and sometimes just after a flu-like illness. The pain and stiffness is often widespread and worse when resting. It can improve with activity or as the day goes on. It has also been known to wake people during the night.
Other symptoms may include feeling unwell, a fever, weight loss, tiredness and feeling anxious or depressed and in the case of giant cell arteritis blindness may result.
There is no specific test for polymyalgia rheumatica. A blood test may be carried out to check for inflammation.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Treatment
Standard painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs alone aren’t enough to ease the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. However, steroid treatment is usually very effective.
If your symptoms don’t improve with steroids, or if you get frequent flare-ups of your condition, you may be prescribed disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) alongside steroid tablets. These drugs dampen the immune system reducing inflammation and allowing the steroid dose to be reduced.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Prevention
It has been demonstrated that a diet which provides good quality phytonutrients will counter inflammation resulting from the damaging effects of free radicals and also improve the immune system. At a fundamental level free radicals are neutralised by antioxidants.
Various vitamins have also been shown to help including vitamin D, vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) found in citrus fruits, broccoli, berries, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes; vitamin A to relieve muscle stiffness and soreness and vitamin E (an anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties) found in wheat germ, whole grains, green vegetables, soybean and canola oil.
It is for this reason that I recommend a diet rich in good quality fruits and vegetables which will provide the antioxidants to neutralise the free radicals and counter the (systemic) inflammation. Read more about my recommendation in my eBook.
- Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR): http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/polymyalgia-rheumatica.aspx