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Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s own immune system mistakenly starts attacking healthy tissue. More than 80 different types of diseases are believed to be autoimmune, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because there are so many conditions under this umbrella, symptoms can vary and may affect organs and tissues throughout the body. Autoimmune disorders that specifically affect the muscles, joints, and nerves include rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Polymyalgia rheumatica, which also involves the joints, is thought to be an autoimmune condition, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica
Polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disorder, causes symptoms of muscle pain and stiffness, typically in the neck, shoulder, arms, or hip areas. Pain is generally worse in the morning. Polymyalgia rheumatica usually occurs in people 65 and older, rarely occurring in those under 50, according to Mayo Clinic, and women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop the disorder. Polymyalgia rheumatica predominantly affects white people with Scandinavian or northern European ancestry, notes the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

Patients with this disorder may also have signs of inflammatory arthritis. Moreover, about 15 percent of people with polymyalgia rheumatica develop a condition known as giant cell arteritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. In this disorder, inflammation narrows or blocks blood vessels, restricting blood flow.

Corticosteroids, at the lowest dose possible, are the mainstay of treating polymyalgia rheumatica, notes NIAMS. But sarilumab (Kevzara), a biologic approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis was also approved in 2023 to treat polymyalgia rheumatica in people for whom corticosteroids don’t work well, according to a press release.


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