SUFFERERS with medical conditions Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) or the connected condition Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) will soon have their own support group based in Leigh.

The cause of both conditions is not known; PMR affects about 4 in 10,000 people, generally women over the age of 60, each year. GCA is uncommon mainly affecting people over the age of 60 and rare in those younger.

PMR affects different people in different ways, sometimes it appears with debilitating pain across the shoulders, hips and lower back while with others the onset is more gradual but is equally painful and restricting.

With PMR, symptoms of stiffness are often worse in the mornings, with people experiencing improved mobility and less pain in the afternoon. It can be diagnosed after a blood test, and appropriately adjusted steroid treatment can offer speedy and dramatic relief.

GCA is a condition in its own right but it can develop as a result of PMR; GCA is a medical emergency because if it is undiagnosed and untreated it can lead to serious visual loss or even blindness. It is estimated that 1,000 people a year are going blind due to undiagnosed GCA.

In GCA, the symptoms are the onset of severe or unusual headaches, with stiffness of the jaw and swollen temples; medical help should be sought urgently, as a high dose of steroids is necessary to bring the inflammation down and safeguard vision.

Gradually patients feel less debilitated and although relapses occur, life can adjust more or less to normal. The conditions usually last for two or three years.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis UK is a registered charity established to meet the needs of people with these debilitating conditions, their friend’s families and helping professionals.

PMR-GCA North West is a new support group for anyone affected by these conditions including friends, family and professionals. The aim of the group is to give people the chance to compare notes and share experiences with others affected by PMR and GCA.

The first meeting will be held at 2pm on the March 5 at the Greyhound Hotel, Warrington Road, Leigh.

Useful numbers are: Helpline: 0300 111 5090; general enquiries 0300 999 5090 or email