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Dermatomyositis: Introduction

Dermatomyositis is an ongoing, long-term inflammation of many muscles throughout the body. These can include the muscles of the lungs, esophagus, and throat. Dermatomyositis is a rare disorder that is treatable, but in some cases can result in serious complications, such as difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, pneumonia, gastrointestinal ulcerations, lung cancer, and complications of pregnancy. Dermatomyositis is a type of polymyositis.

The cause of dermatomyositis is unknown but it is believed to be an autoimmune reaction in which the body's immune system mistakes the cells of the muscles as dangerous substances and attacks them. This process results in the typical symptoms of dermatomyositis which include muscle weakness. Symptoms can occur suddenly or they can develop slowly over a period of months. Symptoms of dermatomyositis can also include muscle pain and joint pain. Symptoms can lead to difficulties performing the activities of daily living, such as dressing, walking, bathing, and eating. Dermatomyositis also causes a skin rash. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of dermatomyositis.

Dermatomyositis occurs in all ages but is most common in middle-age adults and school-age children. Dermatomyositis occurs most frequently in women. Dermatomyositis is also linked in some cases to specific types of cancer, such as lung cancer.

Diagnosing dermatomyositis and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination, including a neurological examination. A neurological exam evaluates the muscles, nerves and nervous system and such functions as reflexes, sensation, movement, balance, coordination, vision, and hearing. Making a diagnosis of dermatomyositis may require the collaborative effort of a variety of specialists. These include a neurologist, a specialist in neurological diseases and disorders, and a rheumatologist, a specialist in disorders and diseases of the joints, muscles, and connective tissue.

Diagnostic tests may include a muscle biopsy. In a muscle biopsy a small sample of muscle tissue is removed and examined under a microscope. Other tests may include blood tests that measure the levels of certain antibodies that the body makes in dermatomyositis.

Diagnostic tests may also include an electromyography (EMG) which tests the nerve and electrical activity of muscles. A nerve conduction test may also be performed to test how fast the nerves transmit impulses to the muscles.

Tests may also be performed for lung cancer if it is suspected in conjunction with dermatomyositis. Testing may include chest X-ray and lung biopsy.

A diagnosis of dermatomyositis and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because in some cases, symptoms develop gradually. Symptoms can also be similar to symptoms of other disorders and diseases. For information about disease and disorders that can mimic chronic dermatomyositis, refer to misdiagnosis of dermatomyositis.

Treatment of dermatomyositis may include medication, rest, exercise, and physical therapy. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of dermatomyositis. ...more »

Dermatomyositis: Polymyositis is an inflammatory muscle disease that causes varying degrees of decreased muscle power. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Polymyositis Information Page: NINDS) ... more about Dermatomyositis.

Dermatomyositis: A muscle disease characterized by chronic muscle inflammation resulting in progressive muscle weakness and a characteristic rash. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Dermatomyositis is available below.

Dermatomyositis: Symptoms

Symptoms of dermatomyositis can occur in both sexes and but affects women far more often than men. Dermatomyositis can occur at any age but is most common in school-age children and middle-age adults.

The primary symptoms of dermatomyositis is muscle weakness and a skin rash. Muscle weakness tends to occur in the upper arms, shoulders, thighs ...more symptoms »

Dermatomyositis: Treatments

Treatment plans for dermatomyositis are individualized depending on the severity, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. The goals of treatment are to relieve the discomfort of muscle pain and joint pain and maximize a person's ability to perform daily tasks. It is also important to ...more treatments »

Dermatomyositis: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of dermatomyositis and its cause may be delayed or missed because the disorder can develops very gradually in some cases, and people with the condition may be unaware of it initially. In addition, symptoms of dermatomyositis are similar to symptoms of other diseases and disorders. These include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Dermatomyositis

Treatments for Dermatomyositis

Wrongly Diagnosed with Dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis: Related Patient Stories

Dermatomyositis: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Dermatomyositis.

Diagnostic Tests for Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Dermatomyositis:

Causes of Dermatomyositis

More information about causes of Dermatomyositis:

Disease Topics Related To Dermatomyositis

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Dermatomyositis:

Less Common Symptoms of Dermatomyositis

Misdiagnosis and Dermatomyositis

Psoriasis often undiagnosed cause of skin symptoms in children: Children who suffer from the skin disorder called psoriasis can often go undiagnosed. The main problem is that psoriasis is rare in children, and more »

Dermatomyositis: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Dermatomyositis: Animations

Prognosis for Dermatomyositis

Prognosis for Dermatomyositis: 20% die in first year in extreme cases, 5-16 years survival in children is 75%, 2 to several years survival in chronic forms, cancer removal may cure the condition

Research about Dermatomyositis

Visit our research pages for current research about Dermatomyositis treatments.

Clinical Trials for Dermatomyositis

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Dermatomyositis include:

Statistics for Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis: Broader Related Topics

Dermatomyositis Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Dermatomyositis, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Dermatomyositis

NINDS Polymyositis Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

Polymyositis is an inflammatory muscle disease that causes varying degrees of decreased muscle power. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Polymyositis Information Page: NINDS)

NINDS Dermatomyositis Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

Dermatomyositis is one of a group of acquired muscle diseases called inflammatory myopathies. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Dermatomyositis Information Page: NINDS)

Definitions of Dermatomyositis:

Progressive condition characterized by symmetric proximal muscular weakness with elevated serum levels of muscle enzymes and a skin rash, typically a purplish-red erythema on the face, and edema of the eyelids and periorbital tissue; affected muscle tissue shows degeneration of fibers with a chronic inflammatory reaction; occurs in children and adults, and in the latter may be associated with visceral cancer or other disorders of connective tissue. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Myositis characterized by weakness of limb and neck muscles and much muscle pain and selling accompanied by skin rash affecting cheeks and eyelids and neck and chest and limbs; progression and severity vary among individuals - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Dermatomyositis is listed as a "rare disease" by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Dermatomyositis, or a subtype of Dermatomyositis, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.
Source - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Ophanet, a consortium of European partners, currently defines a condition rare when it affects 1 person per 2,000. They list Dermatomyositis as a "rare disease".
Source - Orphanet


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