The exact cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is unknown. Two factors appear to be involved in the development of this condition:

  • Genetics. Certain genes and gene variations may increase your susceptibility.
  • An environmental exposure. New cases of polymyalgia rheumatica tend to come in cycles and may develop seasonally. This 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 can cause headaches, jaw pain, vision problems and scalp tenderness. If left untreated, it can lead to stroke or blindness.

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

  • About 20 percent of people with polymyalgia rheumatica also have signs and symptoms of giant cell arteritis.
  • About half of the people with giant cell arteritis may also have polymyalgia rheumatica.
Sept. 17, 2015