Some people have a high tolerance for pain. But others are unable to go on with their daily activities when they are in pain. This is what patients with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) are suffering from every day. It can be quite debilitating.
How does one get this rare disease? As an autoimmune disease, there is no known cause of polymyalgia. People, specifically women are at risk of having this inflammatory disease when they age. It is common to people in their 50s and 70s.
Symptoms of Polymyalgia
Inflammation of the tissues causes the pain and stiffness in polymyalgia. Several areas are affected by polymyalgia. Pain and stiffness occur in the neck, shoulders, hips, and arm muscles. The pain areas are symmetrical so you can just imagine how uncomfortable it can be.
Limited range of motion makes one feel frustrated. The pain and stiffness prevent the person from doing the simplest daily activity such as reaching for objects, dressing up, getting into the car and many other chores. It is can be severely painful and comparable to rheumatoid arthritis pain in the morning.
Some patients experience mild fever, depression, loss of weight, loss of appetite, fatigue, and depression. When sleep is affected due to pain, seeing a rheumatologist or a PMR specialist is a must. A rheumatologist will prescribe the right treatment such as corticosteroids. Not seeing a doctor and self-medication using over-the-counter pain painkillers.
Corticosteroids: An Effective Treatment
The most-prescribed and effective treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica is corticosteroids. They are oral steroid drugs that can work wonders to people with polymyalgia.
A low oral dose of corticosteroid from 12 to 25 milligrams can eliminate pain and stiffness. The pain and stiffness of the muscles in the neck and shoulders taper off just from the first two to three days of treatment. An example of corticosteroids is Prednisone. Corticosteroid are recommended for treatment at least for a month to a year. A non-responsive patient to corticosteroids may be suffering from another disease. He must see his or her doctor for more tests.
Check out the list of oral cortecosteroids, their generic and brand names.
Tapering Steroid Drugs
A corticosteroid is always the preferred treatment for chronic and self-limiting disorders such as PMR. This is because corticosteroids provide nearly 100 percent symptom solution to inflammation.
However, slow tapering of the drug should also be observed religiously to avoid relapse. Tapering of steroid drug intake is guided by the patient’s response to the medication. Corticosteroid treatment is reduced after two to four weeks. Follow-up visits with the rheumatologist are important to monitor the patient condition and to constantly check side effects of corticosteroids. A drastic reduction of corticosteroid medication against the advice of the doctor may cause a sudden relapse. It will force the doctor to increase steroid drug dosage which is more risky and costly.
Side Effects of Steroid Drugs
Long-term use of corticosteroids has a lot of risks. Steroid drugs cause side effects including weight gain and some serious conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
It can also cause cataracts and osteoporosis. Bone loss due to corticosteroids is alarming. The rheumatologist also prescribes vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent bone problem due to the treatment.