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Dermatomyositis Specialist

Arthritis Associates -  - Rheumatology

Arthritis Associates

Rheumatology & Arthritis located in San Antonio, TX

Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory myopathy — a muscle disease that inflammation triggers. At Arthritis Associates in San Antonio, Texas, the team of inflammatory disease specialists uses the most advanced approaches to dermatomyositis diagnosis and treatment to ensure that muscle weakness doesn’t keep you down. Call the office or book an appointment online today.

Dermatomyositis Q&A

What is dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is an autoimmune muscle disease in which your body mistakenly destroys muscle tissue. Dermatomyositis and polymyositis are the most common kinds of inflammatory myopathies. The condition causes significant muscle weakness along with skin rashes. 

Dermatomyositis may increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome, sarcoidosis, and other diseases. 

What are the symptoms of dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis causes:

Muscle problems

The main symptom of dermatomyositis is significant muscle weakness, typically within the larger muscles of the shoulders, neck, and hips. Most people experience weakness on both sides of the body. 

While muscle pain isn't common, you may have some stiffness and soreness. Muscle weakness increases over time, eventually causing muscle thinning. 

If you have dermatomyositis, you may have a hard time rising from a sitting position, climbing stairs, or making other movements that require muscle strength. Stumbling or frequent falls can indicate that the condition is worsening.

Skin problems

Dermatomyositis causes skin rashes, which may occur just before muscle weakening starts or at the same time. The rash usually appears as purple or red discoloration on your eyelids or bumps on your elbows, knees, or knuckles. 

Some people also develop red rashes on their face, upper chest, and other parts of their upper body. The rash appears more prominent with sun exposure. Children can develop vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation) or white spots (calcinosis). 

In addition to muscle and skin symptoms, some people with dermatomyositis also develop a cough, breathing difficulties, unexpected weight loss, low-grade fever, or other issues like choking while eating. 

How is dermatomyositis diagnosed?

Dermatomyositis diagnosis includes a physical exam, symptom review, and tests such as blood work to check muscle enzyme and autoantibody levels. 

You may need a diagnostic ultrasound exam to check for signs of muscle inflammation and, possibly, tests to check the electrical activity within your muscles. 

In some cases, you could need a muscle or skin biopsy to evaluate damage from dermatomyositis. 

What is the treatment for dermatomyositis?

Treatment usually includes a high dose of oral prednisone or another corticosteroid. That can usually reduce your muscle inflammation and restore muscle enzymes in a month or so, which, in turn, restores muscle strength within around two or three months. 

Taking high doses of oral prednisone long-term can cause bone thinning and osteoporosis, so the team can help you transition to a lower prednisone dose. 

You may take a corticosteroid-sparing agent like methotrexate to reduce the side effects of steroids while controlling your symptoms long-term. You may also need a topical prescription skin cream for skin rashes.

In addition to medication, the team usually recommends physical therapy to prevent further muscle atrophy. It's also important to get regular exercise to maintain your muscle strength and use sunscreen to protect your skin long-term. 

For dermatomyositis treatment from experts, call Arthritis Associates or book an appointment online.