Inflammatory myopathies: muscles under siege
Your immune system works like a fierce protector—ready to fight off disease and infection. But sometimes, this complex system mistakenly assaults itself. In the case of inflammatory myopathies, muscle fibers are under siege—leading to inflammation, weakness, and dysfunction due to muscle damage.
The most common forms of inflammatory myopathies are polymyositis and dermatomyositis. They affect people of all ages, including children and adults— with women twice as likely to develop them than men.
What are early symptoms?
Inflammatory myopathies often develop slowly: A person with polymyositis may experience progressive weakness and pain in the muscles surrounding the trunk of the body, and in the neck, shoulders, and hips. Unexplained falls, fatigue, fever, weight loss and difficulty breathing or swallowing are also symptoms. In dermatomyositis, a disorder that also affects children, red or purple skin rashes accompany muscle weakness.
How are they diagnosed?
Rheumatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating these rare conditions. The physician will take a detailed medical and family history and order certain tests and procedures. These include electromyography, an exam that tests muscle strength; an ultrasound to check for inflammation, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to examine anatomy. Blood tests and muscle and skin biopsies may also be needed to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
What are the treatment options?
Among the many medications available to control symptoms, corticosteroids such as prednisone, are often the first line of defense in treating polymyositis and dermatomyositis. There are treatment options depending on the severity of symptoms and someone’s ability to tolerate them. Your best course of action would be to have a discussion with your ARBDA Rheumatologist.
A commitment to a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, good nutrition, rest, and physical therapy, also work to keep individuals active, and symptoms under control.