Dermatomyositis is a muscle disease, a type of inflammatory myopathy. It is a connective tissue disease that involves skin and muscle inflammation. Dermatomyositis can occur at any age, but is commonly seen in adults within the age of 40 to 60 years, and children between the age of 5 to 15 years. Women are more prone to this condition when compared to men.
The causes are unknown. However, experts think that it could be caused due to a problem in the body's immune system, or due to a viral infection of the muscles. Polymyositis is a condition similar to dermatomyositis, but the symptoms of polymyositis do not include the characteristic skin rash of dermatomyositis.
Violet or Dusky Red Rash: Rashes are observed on the face, eyelids, around the nails, knuckles, elbows, knees, chest, and back. They have a bluish-purple color and are often the first sign of this condition.
Progressive Muscle Weakness: The second most important symptom is progressive muscle weakness that affects muscles that are closest to the chest. These include the muscles of the hips, thighs, shoulders, upper arms, and neck. The proximal and symmetrical weakness, gradually worsens with time.
Other symptoms include -
- Shortness of breath
- Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
- Difficulty is lifting objects
- Muscle pain
- Muscle tenderness
- Weight loss
- Scaly scalp and thinning of hair
- Difficulty in climbing stairs
- Purple spots on the bony prominence
- Hardened deposits of calcium under the skin
- Gastrointestinal ulcers and infections
When one develops dermatomyositis, they become susceptible to development of other medical conditions. These medical conditions include -
- Raynaud's Phenomenon: Here the fingers, toes, cheeks, nose, and ears become pale when they are exposed to cold temperatures.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: The heart muscles may develop cardiovascular diseases like myocarditis, putting them under the risk of heart failure, stroke, or arrhythmia.
- Connective Tissue Diseases: Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and Sjogren's syndrome are the other diseases that may develop along with dermatomyositis.
- Lung Diseases: Interstitial lung diseases where scarring (fibrosis) of lung tissue occurs, may be seen along with dermatomyositis. Dry cough and shortness of breath are symptoms of interstitial lung disease.
- Cancer: The chances of developing cancer of the cervix, lungs, pancreas, breasts, ovaries, and gastrointestinal tract is very high in adults with this condition.
This disease has no cure. However, treatment may help strengthen the muscles and increase their functioning. Skin improvement can also take place. The drugs for treatment include corticosteroids that suppress the immune system. Thus, the production of antibodies decreases and the skin and muscle inflammation reduces. Prednisone is usually prescribed for the treatment of dermatomyositis.
Corticosteroids-sparing agents are prescribed to decrease the side effects of corticosteroids, or if the corticosteroids treatment does not work. Azathioprine or methotrexate are prescribed alone, or in combination with corticosteroids. Antimalarial medications like hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine are prescribed for persistent rash.
You need to continue exercising to help build your muscle strength. Speak to your doctor regarding the suitable exercises and then start with an exercise program. Take plenty of rest and do not overexert yourself. Whenever you move outdoors, make sure you wear protective sunscreen and clothing to avoid skin sensitivity.
Do not get frustrated or angry with your condition. Accept your illness and take a positive approach to counter its effects. Ask for support from friends and family to help you sail through the tough time. With proper medical treatment, you will be able to control this condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.