Systemic Dermatomyositis


What is Systemic Dermatomyositis?

Systemic Dermatomyositis is a rare inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect skin, joints and muscles. It is part of a group of diseases known as the idiopathic inflammatory myopathies, which feature chronic, muscle weakness. Systemic dermatomyositis usually presents itself as a skin rash, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

Signs and Symptoms of Systemic Dermatomyositis

Signs and symptoms of systemic dermatomyositis include:

  • Skin rash – the rash can affect the face, neck, chest, upper arms and legs. It is usually red or violet and can be raised and itchy.
  • Muscle weakness – usually affects the muscles close to the hips, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms.
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart problems such as arrhythmia and inflammation of the heart muscle

Diagnosis of Systemic Dermatomyositis

The diagnosis of systemic dermatomyositis is based on a combination of clinical features, laboratory tests and imaging studies. A diagnosis is usually confirmed by a biopsy of the skin or muscle. The biopsy will show inflammation and muscle damage. Blood tests may reveal autoantibodies that can help to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Systemic Dermatomyositis

Treatment of systemic dermatomyositis involves medications to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. These medications may include steroid creams, topical or systemic corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents, antimalarial drugs, and intravenous antibodies. A physical therapy program should also be implemented to help improve muscle strength and joint mobility and to prevent further muscular damage. Patients should also focus on healthy lifestyle practices such as eating a well-balanced diet, getting adequate rest, and avoiding exposure to environmental factors such as cold and sunburn.