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What causes polymyalgia rheumatica?

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Quick Answer

According to Mayo Clinic, the exact causes of polymyalgia rheumatica are unknown. However, genetics plays a role in making some people more susceptible to developing the disease. In addition, there is some evidence that environmental triggers, possibly a virus of some kind, may play a part in the development of polymyalgia rheumatica. However, no such virus has been discovered.

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Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disease that causes stiffness and pain, typically in the shoulders, neck, upper arms and hips. Symptoms tend to come on very quickly. Mayo Clinic points out that the symptoms can be treated with corticosteroids under close supervision of a doctor. People experiencing these symptoms should seek diagnosis and treatment if the symptoms disturb their sleep or interfere with the activities of daily life.

Although the causes of polymyalgia rheumatica are unclear, the risk factors are well known. Polymyalgia rheumatica is a disease of the elderly, with the average case beginning at age 70. Women are more likely to contract it, as are people with Northern European heritage. As Mayo Clinic points out, polymyalgia rheumatica seems to have a close relationship, even an overlap, with giant cell arteritis, sharing many symptoms. It is possible that the two conditions are actually two manifestations of the same disease.

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