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Dermatomyositis

Updated: 9/7/2023
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13y ago

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Definition

Dermatomyositis is a muscle disease characterized by inflammation and a skin rash. It is a type of inflammatory myopathy.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of dermatomyositis is unknown. Experts think it may be due to a viral infection of the muscles or a problem with the body's immune system. It can also sometimes occur in patients who have cancer of the abdomen, lung or other body area.

Anyone can develop dermatomyositis, but it most commonly occurs in children age 5 - 15 and adults age 40 - 60. Women develop this condition more often than men do.

Polymyositis is a similar condition, but the symptoms occur without a skin rash.

Symptoms

The muscle weakness may appear suddenly or develop slowly over weeks or months. You may have difficulty raising your arms over your head, rising from a sitting position, and climbing stairs.

The rash may appear over the face, knuckles, neck, shoulders, upper chest, and back.

Signs and tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

Treatment

The disease is treated with anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids and drugs that suppress the immune system.

When your muscle strength gets better, your doctor may tell you to slowly cut back on your doses. However, most people with this condition must take a medicine called prednisone indefinitely.

If the condition is associated with a tumor, the muscle weakness and rash may improve when the tumor is removed.

Expectations (prognosis)

Some people may recover and have symptoms completely disappear. Doctors have reported several such cases, especially in children.

In adults, death may result from severe and prolonged muscle weakness, malnutrition, pneumonia, or lung failure. The major causes of death are cancer (malignancy) and lung disease.

ComplicationsCalling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have muscle weakness or other symptoms of this condition.

References

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Goldman: Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007.

Reviewed By

Review Date: 02/08/2011

Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, Dermatologist in Private Practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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12y ago
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13y ago
Definition

Dermatomyositis is a muscle disease characterized by inflammation and a skin rash. It is a type of inflammatory myopathy.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of dermatomyositis is unknown. Experts think it may be due to a viral infection of the muscles or a problem with the body's immune system.

Anyone can develop dermatomyositis, but it most commonly occurs in children age 5 - 15 and adults age 40 - 60. Women develop this condition more often than men do.

Polymyositis is a similar condition, but the symptoms occur without a skin rash.

Symptoms

The muscle weakness may appear suddenly or develop slowly over weeks or months. You may have difficulty raising your arms over your head, rising from a sitting position, and climbing stairs.

The rash may appear over the face, knuckles, neck, shoulders, upper chest, and back.

Signs and tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam. Tests may include:

Treatment

The disease is treated with anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids and drugs that suppress the immune system.

When your muscle strength gets better, your doctor may tell you to slowly cut back on your doses. However, most people with this condition must take a medicine called prednisone indefinitely.

If the condition is associated with a tumor, the muscle weakness and rash may improve when the tumor is removed.

Expectations (prognosis)

Some people may recover and have symptoms completely disappear. Doctors have reported several such cases, especially in children.

In adults, death may result from severe and prolonged muscle weakness, malnutrition, pneumonia, or lung failure. The major causes of death are cancer (malignancy) and lung disease.

ComplicationsCalling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have muscle weakness or other symptoms of this condition.

References

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Goldman: Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007.

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13y ago

Immune system cells attack healthy cells of small blood vessels in the muscle and skin. Over time, this causes muscle fiber to shrink and sometimes cuts off blood supply to the muscle

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Related questions

What causes dermatomyositis?

The exact cause of dermatomyositis is unknown


Is Dermatomyositis rare?

Only about 20,000 people in the United States have dermatomyositis


Why is polymyositis similar to dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is identical to polymyositis with the addition of a characteristic skin rash.


When was dermatomyositis discovered?

The first cases of dermatomyositis were discovered by E. Wagner in 1863 and P. Potain in 1875.


Who discovered dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis was first described by Thomas Adolph Schweninger, a German doctor, in 1860. He observed the characteristic skin and muscle changes in patients with this condition.


What are other types of myopathy or inflammatory muscle disease?

Dermatomyositis (DM) and inclusion body myositis and juvenile dermatomyositis.


What does dermatomyositis eventually cause?

In dermatomyositis, the muscle weakness is accompanied by a rash that appears on the upper body, arms, and fingertips


What drugs treat Dermatomyositis?

Prednisone and corticosteroids


How did Laurence olivier die?

Dermatomyositis - a muscle disorder.


Is Dermatomyositis fatal?

Although DM causes pain and weakness, it is not necessarily life threatening


What is the medical term meaning general muscle inflammation with an accompanying skin rash?

Dermatomyositis


What is the first symptom of dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is often first apparent as a rash. The rash, which can be bluish-purple in color, reminiscent of bruising, typically occurs in patches on the face, neck, shoulders, upper portion of the chest, elbows, knuckles, knees, and back.