Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease that affects the muscles, skin and blood vessels. The disease is classified as a chronic inflammatory myopathy. Dermatomyositis usually affects more females than males and is typically seen in children between 5 and 14 years old and adults between 40 and 60 years old.
Understanding the symptoms of dermatomyositis
The most common symptoms are violet or red rashes on the eyelids and face and around the nails, knuckles, chest, back, elbows and knees, as well as signs of muscle weakness in the neck, shoulders, upper arms, hips and thighs. Other symptoms can include fever, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty swallowing and issues with the lungs. Children with dermatomyositis are more likely to show calcium deposits under the skin, tears in the intestines and stomach ulcers.
The disease can be diagnosed through MRI, electromyography or biopsy of the muscles. A blood test can detect elevated enzymes in the muscles, whereas a nailfold capillaroscopy — an examination of the blood vessels in the fingernail through a microscope — can indicate whether the blood vessels are abnormally large, which can be a sign of dermatomyositis.
The primary goal of managing symptoms of dermatomyositis is to reduce inflammation. Therefore, a physician will typically prescribe corticosteroids such as prednisone and corticosteroid-sparing agents such as methotrexate, cyclosporine or intravenous immunoglobulin to reduce symptoms.
Noninflammatory symptoms of dermatomyositis can be treated through physical therapy to reduce muscle atrophy, as well as through protection from ultraviolet light to prevent further skin damage. A physician may also recommend speech therapy and a dietician assessment to plan an appropriate diet if the swallowing muscles are weakened.
Dermatomyositis can be an acute or chronic condition. Some people may make a full recovery after treatment, whereas others may need immunosuppressive treatment for years before their symptoms subside. Just as with certain other autoimmune conditions, dermatomyositis can be chronic for some individuals; however, symptoms can also resolve without treatment in some individuals.
Juvenile dermatomyositis. www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Dermatomyositis-Juvenile.