What Are the Benefits and Dangers of Prednisone in Treating Polymyalgia Rheumatica?


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Prednisone can benefit patients diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica as it works to control inflammation. Some patients, however, have problems tolerating the side effects of prednisone, which can include weight gain; aggravation or development of diabetes; and increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Other potential side effects of prednisone usage include the development of osteoporosis, which increases the risk for fractures, or the development of cataracts, states Mayo Clinic. Patients who take prednisone undergo regular monitoring due to the potentially serious side effects.

Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disorder that develops quickly with the onset of muscle stiffness and pain, especially in the hips, shoulders, upper arms and neck, reports Mayo Clinic. People over age 65 are affected more often than younger adults, with 75 percent of patients being women. Diagnosis of the disease is rare in adults under 50, states Michet and Matteson for the British Medical Journal. Giant-cell arteritis, another inflammatory disease, is diagnosed in 30 percent of polymyalgia rheumatica patients, and this disease can cause jaw pain, headaches and vision problems, including blindness. Both of these diseases are treated with corticosteroids such as prednisone.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have little to no effect on polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms, and while other medications such as methotrexate can offer some benefit to patients, most patients remain on prednisone for at least a year to prevent a relapse in the disease, explains Mayo Clinic.

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