Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your answers to questions, a general physical exam and the results of tests can help your doctor determine the cause of your pain and stiffness. This diagnostic process also helps your doctor rule out other disorders that have similar symptoms to polymyalgia rheumatica.

Your doctor may reassess your diagnosis as your treatment progresses. Studies show that 2 to 30 percent of people initially given a diagnosis of polymyalgia rheumatica were later reclassified as having rheumatoid arthritis.

Exam

Your doctor will conduct an exam to get an idea of your overall health, identify possible causes or rule out certain diseases. He or she may gently move your head and limbs to assess whether your symptoms affect your range of motion.

Blood tests

A nurse or assistant will draw a sample of your blood. This sample will be used for several laboratory tests that your doctor will order. Typically, your doctor will check the complete blood counts (CBC) and two indicators of inflammation — sed rate (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and C-reactive protein.

Imaging tests

Increasingly, ultrasound is being used to distinguish polymyalgia rheumatica from other conditions that cause similar symptoms. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also identify other causes of shoulder pain, such degenerative joint changes.

Monitoring for giant cell arteritis

Your doctor will monitor you for signs and symptoms that may indicate the onset of giant cell arteritis. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • New, unusual or persistent headaches
  • Jaw pain or tenderness
  • Blurred or double vision or visual loss
  • Scalp tenderness

If your doctor suspects you may have giant cell arteritis, he or she will likely order a biopsy of the artery in one of your temples. This procedure, performed during local anesthesia, removes a tiny sample of the artery, which is then examined in a laboratory for signs of inflammation.

July 14, 2015