What is dermatomyositis (DM)?

Dermatomyositis is characterized as an inflammatory disease that has many similar characteristics to an autoimmune disease. People with dermatomyositis suffer from muscle weakness/inflammation and a distinct skin rash. The rash may either precede or accompany the muscle weakness. It is a condition that can affect adults and children. The rash tends to look patchy, with blue and purple discolorations. It most often occurs on the face, shoulder, neck, upper chest, elbows, knees, knuckles, eyelids, or back. Calcium deposits (hard bumps under the skin called calcinosis) may occur as well. 
Muscle weakness is one of the most common symptoms of dermatomyositis and usually occurs in the muscles closest to the body’s trunk. In more serious cases, the lungs may be affected and people may have trouble breathing. There is currently no cure for dermatomyositis and the cause is not well known. People may experience periods of symptom remission, however. Treatments can also help to improve muscle strength and clear up the skin rash. 
When dermatomyositis occurs in children, it usually develops between ages 5 and 15 years old. When it occurs in adults, it usually develops in one’s late 40s to early 60s. 
Risk factors
  • Gender: Dermatomyositis is more common in females. Women are at least two times more likely to suffer from dermatomyositis.
  • Age: Dermatomyositis is more common between the ages of 40 and 60 but can occur at any age
In order to diagnose dermatomyositis, doctors will likely perform a complete medical history and physical exam. 
Some tests that may be done to diagnose dermatomyositis include:
  • Blood tests can help to look for elevated levels of muscle enzymes such as creatinine kinase (CK) or aldolase. Elevated levels could indicate muscle damage/inflammation. Blood tests can also detect antibodies that may be attacking normal cells due to an autoimmune reaction caused by dermatomyositis. 
  • X-rays of the chest can detect lung damage that may occur in some cases of dermatomyositis. 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can look for inflammation in the muscles.
  • Skin or muscle biopsy takes a sample of skin and/or muscle to be analyzed in a lab to look for inflammation or other problems. 
  • Electromyography measures the electrical activity in the muscle in order to detect muscle disease and see which muscles are affected. 
There is no cure for dermatomyositis. Treatment is aimed at helping to improve symptoms. Prompt detection and treatment of dermatomyositis is important because the earlier the treatment, the more beneficial it is. 
Potential treatments for dermatomyositis include:
  • Sunscreen
  • Corticosteroids
  • Corticosteroid sparing agents
  • Antimalarial medications
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin 
  • Surgery 
  • Pain medication
  • Sufferers of juvenile dermatomyositis have a better prognosis than adults with the disease
  • The disease is almost 2x as common in females than males
  • 2-10 million people are diagnosed with dermatomyositis each year
about dermatomyositis

  • "Dermatomyositis." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 01 Aug. 2017. Web. 20 Sep. 2017.
  • "Dermatomyositis." The Johns Hopkins Myositis Center. Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d. Web. 20 Sep. 2017.
  • “Dermatomyositis: What Is It?” Healthline Media. Healthline, n.d. Web. 20 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Dermatomyositis.” The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Cleveland Clinic, 22 Sep. 2015. Web. 20 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Dermatomyositis.” The Myositis Association, Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Dermatomyositis.” Virtual Medical Centre. myVMC, 14 Jun. 2015. Web. 20 Sep. 2017. 


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