Some fibromyalgia sufferers spend years trying to find a diagnosis for their pain. Many health care providers simply can’t find a cause for their symptoms, while others misdiagnose fibromyalgia for other illnesses. On occasion, some people are misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome when they really have a disorder known as polymyalgia rheumatica. This disorder causes symptoms that are very similar to fibromyalgia, but which demands different treatment approaches. If left untreated, polymyalgia rheumatica can result in severe complications.
What is Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disease that affects your muscles and joints. It can cause moderate to severe muscle pain, along with persistent joint stiffness. Polymyalgia rheumatica is often difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are very similar to a number of other conditions. Additionally, symptoms typically donï¿½t appear during physical examinations. Polymyalgia rheumatica is a fairly common syndrome, affecting about 1 out of 200 men and women in the United States.
Who Gets Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
Polymyalgia rheumatica is most common among the elderly. The disorder is rarely diagnosed in people under the age of 50. The average onset of the disease is 70. Other risk factors include:
- being female (women are two times more likely to develop the disorder)
- being of northern European or Scandinavian descent
- having giant cell arteritis (50% of people suffering from giant cell arteritis also have polymyalgia rheumatica)
What Causes Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
As with fibromyalgia, no one is completely sure of the causes of polymyalgia rheumatica. It is thought by some to be related to rheumatoid arthritis, while others believe it is actually a genetic disorder. Possible causes of polymyalgia rheumatica include:
- Autoimmune Disease: Polymyalgia rheumatica may result from an autoimmune disorder in which white blood cells attack the lining of the joints, causing inflammation.
- Environmental Factors: Some researchers believe that polymyalgia rheumatica is caused by the adenovirus respiratory infection.
What are the Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
The symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica tend to appear suddenly and without warning. Many sufferers develop severe pain in just a week or two, while others develop symptoms overnight. The hallmark symptoms of the illness are stiff and painful muscles in the upper arms, upper thighs, neck, hips, and shoulders. Additional symptoms include:
- morning stiffness
- loss of appetite
- weight loss