About dermatomyositis

About Dermatomyositis About Dermatomyositis

What is dermatomyositis (DM)?

Dermatomyositis is a rare disease. In fact, it is believed that only about one in 5,000 people have dermatomyositis (or polymyositis) in the United States today.

Anyone can get dermatomyositis. But some people are more likely to have it than others. For example, twice as many women have dermatomyositis as men. In adults, dermatomyositis typically occurs in the late 40s through early 60s. Dermatomyositis is believed to be an autoimmune disease, but its exact cause is unknown.

Learn about
DM and PM.

Get the facts about how dermatomyositis and polymyositis can affect your muscles and impact your body.

Watch Video
  

Signs, symptoms, and possible causes

Skin Rash

Dermatomyositis usually includes a skin rash. This can be purple or red in color, sometimes swollen, and appear on your:

Face (including eyelids) and neck
Shoulders and upper chest
Back

Additionally, the skin on your knuckles, elbows, or knees may be scaly or red. This is known as Gottron’s rash.

If you live with dermatomyositis, it’s important to avoid direct sunlight. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing at all times. Talk to your healthcare team about steps you can take to protect yourself from too much sunlight.

Muscle weakness

Dermatomyositis causes the muscles to become weaker over time. This can make it more difficult to get up from a chair, climb stairs, or lift things.

Other signs or symptoms of dermatomyositis

In addition to rash and muscle weakness, some dermatomyositis patients experience:

  •  Fatigue
  •  Muscle stiffness and soreness
  •  Trouble swallowing
  •  Weight loss
  •  Low fever
  •  Lumps under the skin, caused by calcium that collects there

Some patients may also have shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, or other heart problems.

Many times, dermatomyositis is idiopathic. That means the cause of the disease is not known. But, there are some theories about the causes of dermatomyositis. These include:

Cancer:

Some types of cancers may be associated with dermatomyositis

Infection:

A viral infection of the muscles may cause the inflammation that occurs in dermatomyositis

If you have dermatomyositis, it's important to talk to your healthcare team about your specific situation.

Julie shares her experience with dermatomyositis.

Julie explains how her condition has impacted her life, and how she maintains a positive outlook.

Watch Video
  

Muscle weakness versus fatigue

It may be easy to confuse muscle weakness with the general feeling of tiredness and weariness caused by fatigue. Both symptoms can occur as a result of dermatomyositis.

Muscle weakness is a loss of strength. You’ll have difficulty climbing stairs, getting up from a chair, or lifting objects with your arms. Fatigue, on the other hand, is more or less feeling like you simply cannot get out of bed all day.

Both of these symptoms can be troublesome. Each can get in the way of your daily activities and pursuits. And it’s important to tell one apart from the other. If you are treating dermatomyositis and muscle weakness returns, it can be a sign of a flare-up. If fatigue is a problem, it could be a sign of treatment side effects or your condition.

But how can you tell these two symptoms apart? Your doctor can. And it’s important to inform him or her if you experience any changes in the way you are feeling. Through testing and evaluation, your doctor will work with you to help manage these and your other symptoms. You may need to make some adjustments to your overall dermatomyositis treatment plan.

More from DM/PM & YOU

Are you a care partner?

Get tips to help you coordinate the care of your loved one.

Test your
knowledge

Myositis and dermatomyositis are two words for the same thing.

Incorrect
False—There are more than one disease in the myositis family. Dermatomyositis is just one type. These conditions include:
  • Dermatomyositis (DM)
  • Polymyositis (PM)
  • Inclusion-body myositis (IBM)
All of these diseases cause chronic muscle inflammation and weakness.
Correct
False—There are more than one disease in the myositis family. Dermatomyositis is just one type. These conditions include:
  • Dermatomyositis (DM)
  • Polymyositis (PM)
  • Inclusion-body myositis (IBM)
All of these diseases cause chronic muscle inflammation and weakness.

Treating dermatomyositis.

Learn about your treatment options.

Autoimmune disease

Normally, the immune system protects your body from outside invaders. It can detect anything from a virus to a splinter. Then, it attacks the invader. Autoimmune disease causes the immune system to become confused and attack healthy tissue.

X

Viral Infection

Viruses invade living cells to produce multiple copies of the virus. Viral infections include the common cold and flu and cannot be treated with antibiotics.

X