4 Risk Factors of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica is a debilitating condition with no known causes. However, since it is an autoimmune disease, researchers have identified four following risk factors in the development of PMR.

On October 16, 2010, actress Barbara Billingsley (aka Mrs. June Beaver) — who was famous for her mother role in “Leave It to Beaver” — was reported to have died of polymyalgia rheumatica. At age 94, her body gave up from the tormenting pain of polymyalgia.

America’s famous mother character, Barbara Billingsley in Leave It to Beaver, died from polymyalgia rheumatica at 94.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica Symptoms

Barbara Billingsley Died of Polymyalgia
America’s famous mother character, Barbara Billingsley in Leave It to Beaver, died from polymyalgia at 94 years old.

PMR is an inflammatory disease. Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are usually felt in the morning. Aches and stiffness of the neck and shoulder muscles are characteristics of polymyalgia symptoms. The pain extends to the arms and the hips, buttocks and the thighs. Pain can occur suddenly on both sides of the body. The body aches and stiffness are severe during the morning but gradually taper off throughout the day. PMR can also cause slight swelling of the joints in the hands and arms as well as in the knees.

Risk Factors of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

So how does one get it? What are the causes of PMR? Who can be affected by polymyalgia rheumatica PMR?

Unfortunately, medical experts have not found the root cause of this condition. Since it is an autoimmune disease, some researchers have identified the following risk factors in the development of PMR.


Age is considered the most significant factor of PMR. You can’t get the disease until you get older.  PMR affects individuals aged 50 and above. Those in their 70s are most likely to suffer from the effects of this inflammatory disorder than those in the 50 to 65 age bracket.The average age of those suffering from PMR is 73. PMR is rarely acquired by persons below 50 years old. The prevalence of PMR increases as a person ages. In the United States, about 2 percent of the population aged 70 years old and above have polymyalgia rheumatica.


PMR is considered the most common inflammatory rheumatic disease that is acquired by elderly white persons. Caucasians are more likely to get this disease than any race. People with ancestors from Northern Europe are the most likely to suffer from this autoimmune disease. White people, particularly from Scandinavia, are vulnerable to the disease. On the other hand, old people from the Mediterranean countries have a lower risk of developing PMR. PMR rates are also lowest in Africans, Asians and those from the Middle East. But, PMR can be acquired by any ethnic group. There have been no conclusive findings yet on why Caucasians have a higher risk of acquiring PMR than any other race around the world.


Women are at higher risk to acquire PMR than men. White women over the age of 50 are considered the highest risk of getting PMR. Polymyalgia rheumatica has no known causes and there have been no supportive facts on why women are most likely to suffer from PMR than men.

Genetic Factor

Could it be in the genes? Genes are units of material present in the cells of a human being. A gene contains coded instructions on how body characteristics develop. Many autoimmune diseases are hereditary. This can also be true with polymyalgia rheumatica.

Evidence from various studies revealed that about two or more genes can cause PMR. The gene type known as HLA-DR4 is a known risk factor for acquiring polymyalgia. This gene was identified to be a culprit since it was discovered to be present twice in PMR patients. Cases of polymyalgia passed down from generation to generation in some families have been documented.

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