What is dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is another disease of connective tissues, like lupus erythematosus. Dermatomyositis however, predominantly affects muscles and skin. There may be a viral cause or it may be autoimmune, like lupus erythematosus; however some instances might be due to paraneoplastic syndrome – a series of changes that happens in the body with cancer.

Signs and symptoms include both the skin and the muscles. Muscles are weak on both sides of the body, and may be accompanied by pain, especially with exercise. The disease is highly variable between different people. In some cases, muscle function may be so poor that the person is unable to stand or walk, or may have difficulty swallowing.

Skin symptoms include various rashes. You might see a red, scaly rash, over the joints of the hands and fingers on both sides of the body. The ends of the fingers might also become hard, rough, and cracked, and there may be changes of colour there. Another rash can exist on top of the eyelids, with swelling. A V-rash can form along the collar line, on parts of the body that have been exposed to UV light.

The disease is untreatable but there are drugs which can ease symptoms, such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, intravenous immunoglobulin, monoclonal antibodies, and some anticancer drugs.

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