Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory condition that produces shoulder stiffness and muscle pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients usually experience the worst symptoms in the morning, with a rapid onset. Patients can suffer from giant cell arteritis, a related inflammatory disorder, at the same time. Symptoms include a tender scalp, pain in the jaw, problems with vision and headaches. PMR usually affects people older than 50, and older than 65 years most often. Taking corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, relieves symptoms.
Painful or aching shoulders are frequently the first symptom of polymyalgia rheumatica, notes Mayo Clinic. Pain, aching, stiffness and decreased range of motion in the upper arms, neck, thighs, hips or buttocks are among other symptoms. The disorder can affect knees, wrists and elbows, but symptoms occur less frequently in those areas. Patients may feel fatigued or depressed, have a general malaise, or lose their appetite and lose weight unintentionally. Patients who receive corticosteroid treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica commonly experience relapses after ending treatment, and the drugs can cause serious side effects.
When left untreated, polymyalgia rheumatica typically disappears within 12 months to several years, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Symptoms disappear within 48 hours when patients receive treatments, such as low doses of prednisone or other corticosteroids. Doctors use high doses of corticosteroids to treat giant cell arteritis. Patients who do not receive prompt treatment have a small risk of becoming blind.