The exact cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is unknown. However, there are two factors that appear to be involved in the development of this condition, including:

  • Genetics. Certain genes and variations in some genes may increase your susceptibility to developing polymyalgia rheumatica.
  • An environmental exposure. New cases of polymyalgia tend to come in cycles and may develop seasonally, which suggests that an environmental trigger, such as a virus, might play a role. But no specific virus has been shown to cause polymyalgia rheumatica.

Giant cell arteritis

Polymyalgia rheumatica and another disease known as giant cell arteritis share many similarities. Giant cell arteritis results in inflammation in the lining of arteries, most often the arteries located in the temples. Giant cell arteritis usually causes headaches, jaw pain, vision problems and scalp tenderness. It can lead to permanent vision loss.

Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis may actually be the same disease but with different manifestations. The overlap between the two diseases is significant:

  • As many as 30 percent of people with polymyalgia rheumatica may also have giant cell arteritis.
  • About half of the people with giant cell arteritis may also have polymyalgia rheumatica.
July 20, 2012