Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory muscular disease that is characterized by two specific symptoms: a violet colored rash and progressive muscle weakness. It occurs more often to women than to men and more frequently to those ages 40 to 60 or in children ages 5 to 15. There is no cure for dermatomyositis but there are treatments and activities that will help manage the symptoms.
A violet colored skin rash is the most common first sign in the development of dermatomyositis. One classic place the rash occurs is on the face, particularly around the eye area, which can be mistaken for a lupus rash or dermatitis. A scalp rash is also fairly common and hair loss may be observed.
Two other common skin eruptions are called Groton papules and calcinosis. Groton papules are reddened, roughened skin that appears over bony areas such as the knuckles or elbows. Calcinosis nodules are hard areas of deposited calcium under the skin. They occur more often in children. Early treatment of dermatomyositis is important in order to head off this complication.
Muscle weakness from dermatomyositis can occur weeks or even years after the skin rash appears. People start to notice that they have increased fatigue climbing stairs or when reaching for items overhead. Muscle tenderness may be present but that is not a typical accompanying symptom. Other symptoms may develop such as Raynaud’s disease, arthritis, weakness of the muscles used for swallowing or lung disease.
Dermatomyositis has also been linked to certain cancers particularly cervical, lung, pancreas, breast, ovarian and the GI tract. Up to 20 percent of people with dermatomyositis may spontaneously have their disease swing back and become inactive. Others find the illnesses waxes and wanes without apparent cause.
Treatment for dermatomyositis:
A physical exam by a doctor will include: blood work to test for enzymes related to muscle injury and other immune levels. A muscle biopsy may be performed to examine the muscle tissue under a microscope. A chest x-ray and EKG may be done to check for heart involvement and an MRI may help detect inflammation in the muscles.