Dermatomyositis Disease Symptoms: Causes & Treatment Options

Dermatomyositis is a rare disease characterized by weakness and inflammation of muscles with distinct skin rash. The disease affects adults as well as children. Sometimes joints, lungs and esophagus are also involved. Women tend to get more afflicted with the disease.

The exact cause is not known, but it is believed to involve the immune system. Viral and bacterial infections of muscles are suspected to trigger the disease. Some believe it has genetic predisposition.

Patient with dermatomyositis has typical rash on face, chest, and elbows. There is bilateral weakness of muscles of arm, hips, and neck.

There is no permanent cure of dermatomyositis. Physical therapy, surgery, and medication are mainstay treatment of dermatomyositis.

Causes Of Dermatomyositis Disease

The exact cause of this inflammatory muscle disease is not known. It is believed to be just like an autoimmune disease. When your immune system reacts to the healthy cells in your body as they consider it as harmful, although they are not, you may suffer from a condition called autoimmune disease.

Increased amount of certain antigens HLA-DR3 and DRW-52 found in patients of same family indicates an underlying genetic predisposition. The disease is also considered to be triggered after viral and bacterial infection of muscles.

Dermatomyositis can occur at any age, but it is more common in elderly age group or in children between 5 to 14 years of age. Women’s are affected more than men.

Symptoms Of Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis is characterized by weakness and skin lesions. The rash on skin usually develops on face, thighs, chest and on the elbows. The skin is swollen and red. Lilac discoloration of eyelids and facial area are characteristic of this disease. Violet rash may also appear on knuckles, elbows, knees and ankles. The skin lesions become scaly after some time followed by intense itching.

Patient may also present with unexplained muscle weakness on both the affected sides. Muscles of arm, thigh, upper trunk, hips are generally involved. Sometimes the respiratory muscles are also involved which makes breathing difficult. Weakness of muscles in throat can make swallowing difficult. There may be hard calcium nodes deposited under the skin. It is common symptom in children suffering from dermatomyositis.

Patient may also present with recurrent episodes of fever and unexplained weight loss. Joint pain is frequent associated symptom as is change in nail structure and color. Many patients suffering from cancer are also known to have dermatomyositis. Weakness of muscles tends to be more severe and rapidly progressing sometimes threatening life.

Treatment Options For Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis is easily diagnosed due to peculiar rash on skin. Certain tests such as MRI, EMG, blood tests to analyze antibodies and enzyme are also beneficial.

Dermatomyositis is not curable and the symptoms persist for lifetime although there is remission of symptoms for time being. The aim of treatment is to improve weakness of muscle and skin rash.

Corticosteroid medicines are mainstay treatment except in patient suffering from malignancy. Corticosteroids are gradually decreased as the symptoms improve. A small dose is then recommended as a maintenance dose.

Use of splints and physiotherapy has supportive role to play in patients suffering from dermatomyositis.
Patient has to take complete bed rest when his muscles are severely inflamed.