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  Information Polymyositis Dermatomyositis  CIDPUSA Foundation

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What are polymyositis and dermatomyositis?
How common are polymyositis and dermatomyositis?
What are the warning signs of polymyositis and dermatomyositis?
What causes polymyositis and dermatomyositis?
What can you do about polymyositis and dermatomyositis?
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What are polymyositis and dermatomyositis?  

  • Polymyositis (pronounced pah-lee-my-o-site-iss) is a disease that causes muscles to be weak.  After a person has had polymyositis for a long time his or her muscles can get smaller.
  • Polymyositis can affect the muscles in any part of the body.  It can also affect the lungs and the heart.
  • It is called dermatomyositis (pronounced der-ma-toe-my-o-site-iss) when the skin is also affected.  It can cause skin rashes all over the body.
  • Both polymyositis and dermatomyositis are chronic  autoimmune diseases.  This means that they can last a very long time and they come in attacks like waves in the sea..
  • With both forms of the disease, there may be times when the symptoms are stronger (active periods) and then periods when the symptoms lessen (remissions).

How common are polymyositis and dermatomyositis?  

  • They affect 15,000 (1 in 2,000) .
  • Women are affected by polymyositis and dermatomyositis twice as often as men.
  • These diseases occur most often in children between the ages of 5 and 15 and in adults between the ages of 50 and 70.

Polymyositis and dermatomyositis can occur at any age but are most common in children and adults over age 50. More adults than children get these diseases. 

One to five new cases per 100,000 are seen each year.  Women are affected by polymyositis and dermatomyositis twice as often as men.

What are the warning signs of polymyositis and dermatomyositis?  
  • The main warning sign is muscle weakness.  Usually the first muscles affected are in the hips and thighs, though any other muscle in the body can be affected. 
  • It may be hard to climb stairs, get dressed or get out of bed.
  • Pain in the joints between bones.  However, the joints are usually not warm or swollen, as with some other forms of arthritis.
  • Deep red (almost purple) rash, usually on the face, scalp, neck and chest.  However, the rash can appear on any part of the body.
  • Coughing and shortness of breath.
    · It may also be hard to swallow.

Muscle weakness and pain
Usually, the main symptom of polymyositis is muscle weakness. At the onset of the disease it generally affects the thighs and hips.  If you have polymyositis,

you may have difficulty climbing stairs, getting off buses with high steps or rising from low surfaces. The distance you are able to walk may eventually be limited

because your muscles get too tired.

If your shoulders are involved, you may have trouble getting dressed, combing your hair or lifting heavy objects. If polymyositis affects your neck, chest and abdomen

 muscles it may be hard to lift your head from a pillow or get out of bed. Polymyositis can also cause you to have trouble swallowing or talking, though these are less

common results of the disease.
At the start of the disease your muscles may feel sore and tender.  Many people do not experience muscle pain; it occurs particularly in people with rapidly progressing disease. 

 The muscle pain and tenderness usually goes away with treatment. After having the disease for a long period of time you may lose muscle bulk overall and the affected muscles

may appear thin and ‘wasted.’

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