Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis - Exams and Tests
polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and
giant cell arteritis (GCA), your doctor will do a
physical exam. He or she will ask you about your past health and symptoms. Because the two
conditions often occur together, it is important that your doctor determine
which one is causing your symptoms. Giant cell arteritis can be serious and
needs immediate treatment with higher doses of medicine than polymyalgia
Age is an important factor in making the
diagnosis, because these conditions rarely occur in people younger than 50. A
limited range of motion in the arms may be a sign of polymyalgia rheumatica. And arteries on the temple or forehead that are swollen,
lumpy feeling, or tender may be a sign of giant cell arteritis.
Tests that can help diagnose polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). This test measures how quickly red blood cells
(erythrocytes) settle in a test tube in 1 hour. A high ESR may be a sign of
polymyalgia rheumatica or giant cell arteritis.
- Complete blood count (CBC). People with either
polymyalgia rheumatica or giant cell arteritis often have mild
anemia. A CBC can show this.
- C-reactive protein. This test measures the amount of
C-reactive protein (CRP) produced when you have
inflammation somewhere in your body. Both giant cell
arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica can cause a high CRP level.
- Temporal artery biopsy. When your doctor suspects
giant cell arteritis, this test can confirm the condition. In this biopsy, a
surgeon will take a sample of a blood vessel on your temple and test it for
- Ultrasound. In some cases, ultrasound of the arteries
on the side of the face near the temple (temporal arteries) may help diagnose
giant cell arteritis. This way of using ultrasound is still being studied for
use in the United States.
Your doctor may confirm a diagnosis of polymyalgia
rheumatica with a trial of
corticosteroid medicine. If you have polymyalgia
rheumatica, you are very likely to have great relief of symptoms within 2 to 4
days of starting treatment.
Tests that may be done to be sure
another condition is not causing your symptoms