develop a rash,
most often on your face, scalp, neck and chest.
The rash can also appear on hands & fingers (often the knuckles), elbows, knees, ankles,
upper arms and thighs.
The rash deep red in colour (almost purple) and in some areas may be slightly
Joint pain commonly occurs during periods when the
disease is active, but the joints are not usually warm
or swollen, as often happens with other forms of
Polymyositis and dermatomyositis can cause weakness
of the muscles required for breathing. They may also
cause fibrosis (build up of excessive fibrous tissue) of
If you have one of the diseases and your
lungs are involved you may experience coughing and
shortness of breath.
In rare cases myocarditis (inflammation of the
muscular walls of the heart) and congestive heart
failure (heart disease accompanied by breathlessness and
retention of sodium and water) can occur as a
result of polymyositis or dermatomyositis.
Calcification (pronounced cal-si-fi-kay-shun) is
hardening of skin and muscles as a result of calcium
salt deposits. Calcification doesn’t often occur in
adults with the disease,
but children with dermatomyositis may develop calcium deposits years after
the disease starts. The deposits generally develop in
the shoulder, pelvis, hip,
calf and thigh and may
severely limit motion. The masses that develop under the
skin can rupture and the calcium salts may drain.
Another physical finding in
dermatomyositis is the "machinist hands" with
cracking and fissuring of the distal digital
skin of the fingerpads. Picture on next page.
What causes polymyositis and dermatomyositis?
- With polymyositis
and dermatomyositis, the body’s immune system makes
a malfunction with these
diseases the immune system attacks healthy tissues.
- What triggers this
process is infections.
Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are
autoimmune diseases. This means that in with
the immune system (which normally protects the body from
germs, viruses, and bacteria)
generates antibodies that attack healthy tissue in
different parts of the body. The cause of polymyositis
and dermatomyositis is infections viruses.
What can you do about polymyositis and
- If your doctor thinks you have polymyositis or
dermatomyositis, he or she may refer you to a
rheumatologist (pronounced room-a-tol-o-jist)
- A rheumatologist is a doctor who has received
special training in the diagnosis and treatment of
problems with muscles, joints and bones.
- Your doctor may order certain laboratory tests.
He or she might perform a test called an EMG. This
test measures the electric current in your muscles.
- He or she might also cut away a very small piece of
muscle to be tested in a laboratory.
- There is no cure for polymyositis or
dermatomyositis, but there are things you can do to
manage the disease.
- Learn as much as you can about this disease.
Speaking with people who are specialists in
arthritis care can provide you with the information
possiability of early cure with IVIg, sosomething can be
done to manage most forms of arthritis.
To be able to diagnose
whether you have polymyositis or dermatomyositis, your
doctor will perform a physical examination and probably
order laboratory tests, such as blood tests.
called a biopsy, involves cutting away a very small
segment of muscle tissue for analysis. Your doctor may
also perform a test called an EMG. With this test
taped to your skin and the electric
currents running through your muscles are recorded. This
shows whether your muscles are working properly.
A test called an MRI
(magnetic resonance imaging) may also be done. This
test is somewhat like an X-ray, in that it creates a
picture of the inside of your body. X-rays are only
seeing bones though, and with an MRI a picture
can also be taken of your muscles.
If you are diagnosed with
polymyositis or dermatomyositis your active involvement
in developing your prescribed treatment plan is
- In most cases, oral cortisone is given to treat
polymyositis and dermatomyositis. Cortisone is a
steroid that reduces inflammation and can control
your immune system.