Polymyalgia Rheumatica: Care Instructions

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Polymyalgia rheumatica causes pain and swelling in joints and muscles, mainly in the hips, neck, and shoulders. Pain and swelling may be worse in the morning. This condition can occur quickly and often lasts for a year or two. Your doctor will treat you with medicine to reduce swelling. Your symptoms should get much better in 1 to 3 days and go away in 2 to 4 weeks.

Some people who have this also get giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis). This causes swelling of some blood vessels in the head. Tell your doctor if you have any headaches, jaw pain, or tightness or tenderness along the temple or scalp. This condition can cause blindness if it is not treated. Tell your doctor if you have problems with your vision, including blurring or seeing double.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may get medicines to reduce pain and to keep your bones from getting thin.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure to drink milk and eat dairy products, such as low-fat cheese and yogurt. Ask your doctor how much calcium you need. If you cannot eat dairy products or you do not get enough calcium from food, you may take pills.
  • Get regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, dancing, or weight lifting. This will help keep your bones strong and may also help your mood.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a headache, jaw pain, or problems seeing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your joint and muscle pain or stiffness gets worse.
  • You have side effects from your corticosteroid medicine, such as:
    • Signs of diabetes (feeling thirsty all the time, needing to urinate often).
    • Signs of infection (fever, chills, cough, burning during urination, severe sore throat, or skin infection).
    • A large weight gain.
    • Mood changes.
    • Trouble sleeping.
    • Bruising easily.
  • You have any other problems with your medicine.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.