Distal extremity swelling with pitting edema in polymyalgia rheumatica. Report on nineteen cases

Arthritis Rheum. 1996 Jan;39(1):73-80. doi: 10.1002/art.1780390110.


Objective: To determine the frequency and clinical characteristics of diffuse distal extremity swelling with pitting edema occurring in polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR).

Methods: Clinical features and laboratory findings were recorded for all 245 residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota who developed PMR over a 22-year period (1970-1991). Those who exhibited > or = 1 episode of diffuse distal extremity edema with pitting were selected for this study, and were evaluated further.

Results: Thirteen women and 6 men in this incidence cohort of PMR had > or = 1 episode of distal extremity swelling with pitting edema. Giant cell arteritis was also identified in 5 patients. In 11 patients, the swelling and edema development concurrently with proximal PMR symptoms. In 2 patients, the distal swelling was the initial manifestation, and in 6 patients, the distal symptoms developed during relapses or recurrences of PMR. Both upper and lower extremities were affected, usually in a symmetric manner. Other peripheral manifestations were also common. The distal swelling and pitting edema responded promptly to corticosteroids, and slowly or incompletely to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; a similar response was observed in the proximal symptoms. The distal swelling appeared to represent tenosynovitis and synovitis of regional structures.

Conclusion: Distal extremity swelling with pitting edema represents a manifestation of PMR that has not been well described in previous studies. Awareness of this finding will help facilitate the proper diagnosis and institution of appropriate therapy for this disease.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ankle
  • Cohort Studies
  • Edema / complications*
  • Edema / drug therapy
  • Edema / etiology
  • Extremities*
  • Female
  • Foot
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / complications*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wrist


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones