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What is PMR and what is GCA?

Our NEW website is Please use the new address as information on this site may be out of date... 


Polymyalgia Rheumatica (Pseudopolyartrite rhizomélique)

Polymyalgia Rheumatica or PMR is a rheumatic condition which attacks twice as many females as males aged 55 and over. The average age of onset is round about 70 years. It affects roughly 1 in 1,000 people over the age of 50.

It can start slowly with flu like symptoms and it can start so suddenly that one morning you find you cannot get out of bed because you are so stiff and sore. Diagnosis is difficult because other conditions, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, have similar symptoms. The Doctor makes his diagnosis on the basis of a blood test and other factors. Early morning stiffness which eases as the day progresses is a significant factor along with severe pain in the shoulders, thighs and pelvic area.

The most common treatment is initially a dose of Prednisolone, a steroid, which is reduced as quickly as possible because of the danger of osteoporosis if taken over long periods of time, along with treatment to avoid osteoporosis. The steroid treatment usually reduces the pain and stiffness quite quickly and often miraculously. This only controls the inflammation and is not a cure for the underlying condition. What it is not so good at is alleviating the unreasonable fatigue and pain that continues for some people.

Some people may find the condition burns itself out after 2 - 3 years but others may have to remain on steroids for longer. For a few it may recur after a period of remission.

Giant Cell Arteritis (La Maladie de Horton or Jättecellsarterit)

Giant Cell Arteritis, GCA or Temporal Arteritis is less common but usually affects the same group of people as PMR. You can have it without PMR but they often go together. GCA is characterised by severe headache, inflammation of the temporal arteries, pain in the muscles of the head, vision disturbance and sometimes jaw stiffness. It must be treated swiftly with a higher dose of Prednisolone than in the case of PMR because sufferers are at risk of going irreversibly blind and of having a stroke. It can also be characterised by unreasonable fatigue and pain and stiffness.

Research and Hope

Research is ongoing and new guidelines are being developed. As they are published we will provide links HERE so that you are kept fully informed. Please do check back from time to time. 

Info Packs

For an information package about PMR and GCA, you can use the contact form, send an email to or ring the Helpline 0300 777 5090

Fibromyalgia or Polymyalgia Rheumatica?

There is a useful article about the difference between Fibromyalgia and Polymyalgia on the Arthritis Foundation's website (a United States organisation) but there are two caveats.

  • One is the course of Polymyalgia - two years may be experienced by some but as you will have read elsewhere on this website, not for all.
  • The other is the use of NSAIDs - recommendations from the new EULAR guidelines is that NSAIDs should not be used in PMR other than to treat concomitant short term problems such as toothache, cystitis etc. (see the full article on the Research and clinical guidelines page)