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Polymyositis Symptoms & Diagnosis


If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to polymyositis. These symptoms are quite common. They may be caused by other, less serious, health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor.

Symptoms include:

  • General weakness (lethargy)
  • Weakness in the muscles of the hips and shoulders—occurs slowly and gradually over a period of weeks or even months
    • This gradual muscle weakness is often the first sign of the disease
  • Achy, tender muscles
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue after standing or walking
  • Trouble rising from a chair
  • Great effort needed to climb stairs
  • Struggle to lift objects
  • Difficulty reaching overhead (eg, unable to comb your hair)
  • Trouble with swallowing (when muscles in the front of the neck and throat become involved)—rare
  • Difficulty breathing (if it affects the lungs or chest muscles)—quite rare


This diagnosis is not easy. Symptoms vary from person to person. It is often a matter of ruling out other diseases and conditions. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

  • Blood test—to check for autoantibodies (antibodies that attack parts of your body)
  • Creatine kinase test—blood test that looks for elevated levels of muscle proteins or enzymes called creatine kinase (CK) (when a muscle is damaged, CK is released into the bloodstream)
  • Aldolase test—a blood test that looks for elevated levels of aldolase (a substance released into the bloodstream when a muscle is damaged)
  • Electromyogram (EMG) —measures activity of your muscles, often used to help find causes of muscle weakness or damage
  • Muscle biopsy —a small piece of muscle tissue is removed and examined to see if the muscle is damaged in some way
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) —noninvasive scan, using magnetic waves, of your muscles to see if any muscles are inflamed

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2020 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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