Is there a test for polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis?

There is no single test to tell if you have polymyalgia rheumatica or giant cell arteritis. The doctor may:

  • Take your medical history and perform a physical exam.
  • Order blood tests to look for signs of inflammation.
  • Order other tests and consult with specialists as needed.

How are polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis treated?

The main goal of treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica is relief of symptoms. For giant cell arteritis, the goal is to help symptoms and to prevent vision loss and other complications.

Both polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis are treated with medications, most especially corticosteroids.

Who treats polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis?

Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis are primarily treated by:

  • Rheumatologists, who specialize in treating arthritis and other diseases that affect the joints, bones, muscles, and immune system.
  • Primary care doctors, such as family physicians or internal medicine specialists.

Other health care providers who may be involved in your care include:

  • Ophthalmologists, in cases of giant cell arteritis in which the eyes are affected. Ophthalmologists specialize in treating disorders and diseases of the eye. 
  • Cardiologists or vascular surgeons, in cases of giant cell arteritis affecting the aorta and its main branches. These specialists focus on treating blood vessel problems. 
  • Mental health professionals, who help people cope with difficulties in the home and workplace that may result from their medical conditions. 
  • Physical therapists, movement specialists who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.

Living with polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis

Even at low doses, corticosteroids can cause side effects, such as:

  • Higher risk of infections.
  • Mood swings.
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness).
  • High blood pressure.
  • Vision problems (such as cataracts or glaucoma).
  • Diabetes.
  • Osteoporosis (thinning, weakened bones).
  • Weight gain.
  • Swelling of face, legs, or other parts of the body.
  • Loss of muscle.

It is important to let your doctor know if you experience any of these effects. Here are some tips to help you avoid side effects.

  • To protect your bones, make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D and do weight-bearing exercises, such as walking.
  • To avoid weight gain and lower the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly.
  • If you smoke, see your doctor about making a plan to quit. Smoking can affect bone and heart health.

It is also important to:

  • Visit your health care providers regularly and follow their directions.
  • Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Talk to a mental health professional or join a support group if you develop anxiety or depression. Living with polymyalgia rheumatica or giant cell arteritis may be hard at times, and connecting with others may help.