The inflammatory medical condition polymyalgia rheumatica primarily targets the hips, lower back, neck, shoulders, thighs and upper arms. Because symptoms frequently overlap with those of other conditions, diagnosis is sometimes difficult.
The main symptom of polymyalgia rheumatica are stiffness and aching in affected areas, fatigue, decreased red blood cells (anemia) and weight loss. Some sufferers also experience a moderate fever.
Polymyalgia rheumatica develops when joints and nearby tissue become inflamed after white blood cells attack the synovium, soft membranes that line the joints. While it's unclear why that happens, environmental and genetic triggers are potential causes.
Symptoms may develop gradually or abruptly, and usually clear up within a year with medication and lifestyle modifications. Pain often targets only one side of the body initially and then spreads to the opposite side.
Daily use of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, is a common treatment. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can alleviate symptoms of mild cases, but extended usage may produce complications.
Most common among individuals older than 50, polymyalgia rheumatica occurs twice as often in women. Other higher-risk groups include caucasians and individuals who have giant cell arteritis, a medical condition in which certain arteries swell and become irritated.