Updated: 2/13/2018

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Review Topic
  • A 50-year-old woman presents to her physician's office for muscle pain and stiffness in the morning. She reports that this has been going on for a few months now and has been getting increasingly more painful. As a hair stylist, she reports that she now has to schedule her appointments in the afternoon, as her muscles are too stiff and sore to cut and style hair. She also reports that she occasionally gets low-grade fever with no other signs of infection. Physical exam reveals normal strength and slightly reduced range of movement. Laboratory exam reveals elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein. Serum rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibodies are normal. She is given systemic low-dose corticosteroids.
  • Clinical definition
    • chronic and inflammatory rheumatic disease characterized by muscle pain and stiffness
  • Epidemiology
    • demographics
      • female > male
      • > 50 years of age
    • risk factors
      • winter months
      • viral infections
  • Pathogenesis
    • pathogenesis is unclear but may be triggered by environmental factors such as winter or viral infections and inflammatory cytokines play a key role
  • Associated conditions
    • giant cell arteritis (in ~20% of patients)
  • Prognosis
    • ~50% of patients experience relapse
  • Symptoms
    • muscle pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, or pelvis for > 2 weeks
      • stiffness is more prominent in the morning
      • difficulty rising out of chair or lifting arms above head
    • constitutional symptoms
      • fatigue
      • low-grade fevers
      • weight loss
    • headache may indicate giant cell arteritis
  • Physical exam
    • normal muscle strength
    • may have reduced active and passive range of movement
    • joint swelling may be appreciated
  • Labs
    • ↑ inflammatory markers
      • erythrocyte sedimentation rate
      • C-reactive protein
    • normal creatine kinase
    • autoantibodies typically absent
  • Making the diagnosis
    • based on clinical presentation and laboratory studies
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Spondyloarthropathy
  • Adhesive capsulitis
  • Fibromylagia
  • Management approach
    • if patients do not rapidly respond to low-dose corticosteroids, consider an alternative diagnosis
    • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs usually do not have any effect
  • Medical
    • systemic low-dose corticosteroids
      • indications
        • initial therapy for patients with polymyalgia rheumatica
          • low-dose steroid response is usually rapid
          • consider supplementing with calcium and vitamin D for prevention of osteoporosis
    • methotrexate
      • indications
        • added to treatment regimen for patients on prolonged therapy, with inadequate response to steroids
        • used in patients in whom steroids are contraindicated
  • Blindness caused by giant cell arteritis

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Questions (1)
Lab Values
Blood, Plasma, Serum Reference Range
ALT 8-20 U/L
Amylase, serum 25-125 U/L
AST 8-20 U/L
Bilirubin, serum (adult) Total // Direct 0.1-1.0 mg/dL // 0.0-0.3 mg/dL
Calcium, serum (Ca2+) 8.4-10.2 mg/dL
Cholesterol, serum Rec: < 200 mg/dL
Cortisol, serum 0800 h: 5-23 μg/dL //1600 h:
3-15 μg/dL
2000 h: ≤ 50% of 0800 h
Creatine kinase, serum Male: 25-90 U/L
Female: 10-70 U/L
Creatinine, serum 0.6-1.2 mg/dL
Electrolytes, serum  
Sodium (Na+) 136-145 mEq/L
Chloride (Cl-) 95-105 mEq/L
Potassium (K+) 3.5-5.0 mEq/L
Bicarbonate (HCO3-) 22-28 mEq/L
Magnesium (Mg2+) 1.5-2.0 mEq/L
Estriol, total, serum (in pregnancy)  
24-28 wks // 32-36 wks 30-170 ng/mL // 60-280 ng/mL
28-32 wk // 36-40 wks 40-220 ng/mL // 80-350 ng/mL
Ferritin, serum Male: 15-200 ng/mL
Female: 12-150 ng/mL
Follicle-stimulating hormone, serum/plasma Male: 4-25 mIU/mL
Female: premenopause: 4-30 mIU/mL
midcycle peak: 10-90 mIU/mL
postmenopause: 40-250
pH 7.35-7.45
PCO2 33-45 mmHg
PO2 75-105 mmHg
Glucose, serum Fasting: 70-110 mg/dL
2-h postprandial:<120 mg/dL
Growth hormone - arginine stimulation Fasting: <5 ng/mL
Provocative stimuli: > 7ng/mL
Immunoglobulins, serum  
IgA 76-390 mg/dL
IgE 0-380 IU/mL
IgG 650-1500 mg/dL
IgM 40-345 mg/dL
Iron 50-170 μg/dL
Lactate dehydrogenase, serum 45-90 U/L
Luteinizing hormone, serum/plasma Male: 6-23 mIU/mL
Female: follicular phase: 5-30 mIU/mL
midcycle: 75-150 mIU/mL
postmenopause 30-200 mIU/mL
Osmolality, serum 275-295 mOsmol/kd H2O
Parathyroid hormone, serume, N-terminal 230-630 pg/mL
Phosphatase (alkaline), serum (p-NPP at 30° C) 20-70 U/L
Phosphorus (inorganic), serum 3.0-4.5 mg/dL
Prolactin, serum (hPRL) < 20 ng/mL
Proteins, serum  
Total (recumbent) 6.0-7.8 g/dL
Albumin 3.5-5.5 g/dL
Globulin 2.3-3.5 g/dL
Thyroid-stimulating hormone, serum or plasma .5-5.0 μU/mL
Thyroidal iodine (123I) uptake 8%-30% of administered dose/24h
Thyroxine (T4), serum 5-12 μg/dL
Triglycerides, serum 35-160 mg/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3), serum (RIA) 115-190 ng/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3) resin uptake 25%-35%
Urea nitrogen, serum 7-18 mg/dL
Uric acid, serum 3.0-8.2 mg/dL
Hematologic Reference Range
Bleeding time 2-7 minutes
Erythrocyte count Male: 4.3-5.9 million/mm3
Female: 3.5-5.5 million mm3
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Westergren) Male: 0-15 mm/h
Female: 0-20 mm/h
Hematocrit Male: 41%-53%
Female: 36%-46%
Hemoglobin A1c ≤ 6 %
Hemoglobin, blood Male: 13.5-17.5 g/dL
Female: 12.0-16.0 g/dL
Hemoglobin, plasma 1-4 mg/dL
Leukocyte count and differential  
Leukocyte count 4,500-11,000/mm3
Segmented neutrophils 54%-62%
Bands 3%-5%
Eosinophils 1%-3%
Basophils 0%-0.75%
Lymphocytes 25%-33%
Monocytes 3%-7%
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin 25.4-34.6 pg/cell
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration 31%-36% Hb/cell
Mean corpuscular volume 80-100 μm3
Partial thromboplastin time (activated) 25-40 seconds
Platelet count 150,000-400,000/mm3
Prothrombin time 11-15 seconds
Reticulocyte count 0.5%-1.5% of red cells
Thrombin time < 2 seconds deviation from control
Plasma Male: 25-43 mL/kg
Female: 28-45 mL/kg
Red cell Male: 20-36 mL/kg
Female: 19-31 mL/kg
Cerebrospinal Fluid Reference Range
Cell count 0-5/mm3
Chloride 118-132 mEq/L
Gamma globulin 3%-12% total proteins
Glucose 40-70 mg/dL
Pressure 70-180 mm H2O
Proteins, total < 40 mg/dL
Sweat Reference Range
Chloride 0-35 mmol/L
Calcium 100-300 mg/24 h
Chloride Varies with intake
Creatinine clearance Male: 97-137 mL/min
Female: 88-128 mL/min
Estriol, total (in pregnancy)  
30 wks 6-18 mg/24 h
35 wks 9-28 mg/24 h
40 wks 13-42 mg/24 h
17-Hydroxycorticosteroids Male: 3.0-10.0 mg/24 h
Female: 2.0-8.0 mg/24 h
17-Ketosteroids, total Male: 8-20 mg/24 h
Female: 6-15 mg/24 h
Osmolality 50-1400 mOsmol/kg H2O
Oxalate 8-40 μg/mL
Potassium Varies with diet
Proteins, total < 150 mg/24 h
Sodium Varies with diet
Uric acid Varies with diet
Body Mass Index (BMI) Adult: 19-25 kg/m2

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(M1.MK.23) A 65-year-old woman comes to clinic complaining of pain with chewing solid foods. She reports that she has been feeling unwell lately, with pains in her shoulders and hips, and she has lost five pounds in the past few months. Her vital signs are T 39C, RR 18 breaths/min, HR 95 bpm, BP 120/65 mmHg. When you ask her to stand from her chair to get on the exam table she moves stiffly but displays preserved proximal muscle strength. Another potential symptom or sign of this disease could be: Review Topic

QID: 101687

Violaceous rash across the eyelids








Easily sunburned on face and hands








Thickened, tight skin on the fingers




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