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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Dermatomyositis

Last reviewed: January 22, 2013.

Dermatomyositis is a muscle disease that involves 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 may also occur in patients who have cancer in the abdomen, lung, or other parts of the body.

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

Polymyositis is a similar condition, but the symptoms do not include a skin rash.

Symptoms

The muscle weakness may come on suddenly or develop slowly over weeks or months. You may have trouble raising your arms over your head, getting up from a sitting position, and climbing stairs.

The rash may appear on your face, knuckles, neck, shoulders, upper chest, and back.

Signs and tests

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

Treatment

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

When your muscles get stronger, your doctor may tell you to slowly cut back on your doses. Most people with this condition must take a medicine called prednisone for the rest of their lives.

If a tumor is causing the condition, the muscle weakness and rash may get better when the tumor is removed.

Expectations (prognosis)

Symptoms may go away completely in some people, such as children.

The condition may be fatal in adults due to severe muscle weakness, malnutrition, pneumonia, or lung failure. The major causes of death with this condition are cancer and lung disease.

Calling your health care provider

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

References

  1. Jorizzo JL, Vleugels RA. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevir; 2012:chap 42.

Review Date: 1/22/2013.

Reviewed by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Drugs that suppress or modify the immune system for dermatomyositis and polymyositisDrugs that suppress or modify the immune system for dermatomyositis and polymyositis
    Dermatomyositis and polymyositis are long‐term inflammatory muscle diseases, causing muscle weakness and disability. For some reason, the body's immune system turns against its own muscles in an autoimmune response. Corticosteroids are the principal treatment but due to side effects, there is a need for additional treatment with drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants) or modify it (immunomodulatory therapies) to improve patient outcomes. For this review, an update of a review first published in 2005, we found ten randomised trials available, involving 258 participants.
See all (4) ...

Figures

  • Dermatomyositis, Gottron's papule.
    Dermatomyositis, Gottron's papules on the hand.
    Dermatomyositis, heliotrope eyelids.
    Dermatomyositis on the legs.
    Dermatomyositis, Gottron's papule.
    Paronychia, candidial.

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