What is Dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is a rare disease. It is an inflammatory condition that creates a skin rash and muscle weakness. Both children and adults alike can be affected by it. Although there is no cure for it, the symptoms are very manageable.

Dermatomyositis is an autoimmune disease and underlying disorders that permanently affect the immune system such as cancer or sever viral infections may lead to the development of the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Dermatomyositis?

The most prevalent symptom of dermatomyositis is a skin rash on the chest, elbows, nails, or face. The rash is fairy distinctive as it has a bluish-purple color and it can be patchy in appearance. Muscle weakness usually follows and gets worse over the course of weeks or months. The muscle weakness is usually felt in the hips, neck or arms and is usually felt on both sides of the body.

There can be other symptoms that occur as well. These can include lung problems, muscle tenderness or pain, difficulty swallowing, fatigue, calcium deposits under skin, fever, or weight loss.

Dermatomyositis Causes

Like many disorders, there is currently a sizable amount of research needed to pinpoint the specific cause or causes of dermatomyositis to date, though connections and reliable hypothesis have been developed. Still, one unanimous clue for finding the cause is in its similarities and connection to autoimmune diseases.

Dermatomyositis is present when autoimmune disorder becomes hyper active, as more tissue is being attacked and severely damaged. Dermatomyositis technically starts developing as smaller blood vessels in your body’s muscular tissue are found to be under attack or feeling the brunt of an autoimmune issue. Consequently, inflammatory cells then surround the blood vessels in question and this leads to the destruction of muscle fibers, at which point dermatomyositis is technically diagnosed.

A compromised immune system can also contribute actually developing dermatomyositis. For example, if a person has cancer or a viral infection they a more likely to suffer a dermatomyositis infection. Anyone is at risk of developing dermatomyositis, but it is most common in people between 40 and 60 years of age or children between 5 and 15 and more often women.

How is Dermatomyositis Treated?

Treatment for dermatomyositis focuses on improvement of muscle weakness and skin condition.

Treatment includes

Doctors might suggest surgery but they are more likely to consider medication and physical therapy first.

Corticosteroid medication is usually the first thing doctors will try.  They can be taken orally or applied to the skin. This type of medication lowers the amount of inflammation-causing antibodies, which cause your immune system to react slower. Corticosteroids do have side effects though so they are not usually used for a long-term solution.

If corticosteroids do not work other drugs, like methotrexate or azathioprine might be prescribed. Alternates to medication include intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), which is administered via IV and contains antibodies gathered from healthy blood donations, and physical therapy to improve muscle strength and diminish the loss of muscle tissues.  If you have calcium deposits, surgery may be recommended.

Dermatomyositis Prevention

Because dermatomyositis is considered a genetic (inherited) disorder and prevention methods are only speculative at this point, management and attacking symptoms is what doctors often recommend. People who notice symptoms or who feel they are at risk due to autoimmune issues must stay out of the sun whenever possible, wear long sleeves and sunscreen with a high SPF. One of the methods of care and prevention are the nonpharmacological treatments of frequent bed rest, which helps with sore and weak muscles and of course physical therapy.

Then there are the Pharmacological methods that include immunomodulatory drugs such as cyclosporine, azathioprine, methotrexate, leflunomide, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate, Steroids, and chlorambucil.

Last Reviewed:
October 05, 2016
Last Updated:
June 28, 2018