Dermatomyositis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is an unusual inflammatory disease marked by a distinctive skin rash and inflamed muscles or muscular weakness.


Dermatomyositis causes and risk factors


The precise cause of dermatomyositis is not known. Researchers believe that it is related to muscular viral infections or due to an autoimmune disorder.

Risk Factors

  • Individuals with cancer of the lung, abdomen or any other part
  • Children of age group 5-15
  • Adults of 50-70 years
  • Women are more likely to get than men

Dermatomyositis symptoms

It is marked with a burning and itchy rash on the knuckles, face, neck, shoulders, upper chest and back along with:

  • Purple to red skin rash
  • Muscle weakness, soreness or stiffness
  • Purplish upper eyelids
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hard calcium deposits beneath the skin
  • Problem swallowing
  • Prominent nail fold capillaries

The muscle weakness can arise with the rash or even several months to years later. The muscular weakness becomes evident with difficulties in:

  • Climbing stairs
  • Lifting object
  • Walking
  • Getting up from sitting posture

Dermatomyositis diagnosis

To diagnose this condition, apart from a physical exam, following tests are done:

  • Blood tests to detect autoantibodies and muscle enzymes aldolase and creatine phosphokinase
  • Electromyography: Here electrical impulses that control the muscles are recorded
  • Biopsy of skin to detect any changes in the skin
  • Muscle biopsy to check signs of inflammation
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect anomalous muscles

Dermatomyositis treatment and prevention


Often, there is no cure for dermatomyositis in most of the cases. The treatment options include:

Know about treatment and prevention of lupus

  • Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids and drugs to suppress the immune system are prescribed.
  • Physical therapy is recommended to keep the muscles and joints moving.
  • Surgery is done for removal of hard calcium deposits.


As the precise cause is not known, no specific approaches are known to prevent it.

Dermatomyositis: read more


The associated complications can include:

  • Ulcers
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Infections of the lung
  • Joint pain
  • Cancer
  • Acute renal failure
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Weight loss

Next Steps

Visit your doctor if you notice any muscle weakness.

Consult a top Dermatologist

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  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. http://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/dermatomyositis/. Accessed 24 Jan. 17.
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/dermatomyositis/. Accessed 24 Jan. 17.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000839.htm. Accessed 24 Jan. 17.

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