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Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis - Symptoms

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) often occur suddenly and get worse without treatment. Typical polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms include pain and morning stiffness in the:

These symptoms are caused by inflammation of joints, tendons, and bursae of the hip and shoulder regions. The pain affects both sides of the body. For example, both shoulders will usually be painful, not just one. Usually, both the shoulder and hip areas are affected.

Other symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica may include:

Giant cell arteritis

Symptoms of giant cell arteritis (GCA) can develop gradually or suddenly. They require immediate treatment.

Symptoms of giant cell arteritis may include:

  • Headache, often near the temple or around the eye (temporal headache). Headaches are a symptom for most people who are examined for giant cell arteritis. The headache may begin as a dull, throbbing pain on one side of the head around the eye or near the temple. Sometimes the pain may feel like a stabbing or burning sensation.
  • Vision problems. These problems may come on quickly and be temporary, but sometimes they do not go away. Examples include:
    • Brief loss of vision or partial loss. This can last seconds to minutes.
    • Blurry or double vision.
    • Blindness.
    • Patches of poor vision surrounded by normal vision.
    • Decreased sharpness (acuity) of vision or focus.
  • Tenderness on the side of the head (temple) or scalp. The blood vessel on the temple camera.gif may also look swollen and its pulse may be decreased or absent. You may notice tenderness when you wear your glasses or comb your hair.
  • Pain, aching, weakness, or cramping (claudication) of the tongue or jaw, especially when you chew food or talk for long periods of time.

Other uncommon symptoms of giant cell arteritis may include cough, hoarseness, chest pain, and arm weakness or cramps.

Some people with giant cell arteritis do not have the typical symptoms of headache, jaw pain, and vision problems. About half of people with giant cell arteritis will also have symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica.1

Untreated giant cell arteritis can cause narrowing (constriction) of some of the arteries in the skull or head camera.gif, reducing blood flow. As a result, a person with untreated giant cell arteritis is at greater risk of blindness, stroke, or mini-strokes (transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs).


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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