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.