Polymyositis (cont.)

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What are symptoms of polymyositis?

Weakness of muscles is the most common symptom of polymyositis. The muscles involved usually are those that are closest to the trunk of the body. The onset can be gradual or rapid. This results in varying degrees of loss of muscle power and atrophy. The loss of strength can be noticed as difficulty getting up from chairs, walking, climbing stairs, or lifting above the shoulders. Trouble with swallowing and weakness lifting the head from the pillow can occur. Occasionally, the muscles ache and are tender to the touch.

Patients can also feel fatigue, a general feeling of discomfort, and have weight loss and/or low-grade fever.

With skin involvement (dermatomyositis), the eyes can be surrounded by a violet discoloration with swelling. There can be scaly reddish discoloration over the knuckles, elbows, and knees (Gottron's sign). There can also be reddish rash on the face, neck, and upper chest. Hard lumps of calcium deposits can develop in the fatty layer of the skin, most commonly in childhood dermatomyositis.

Heart and lung involvement can lead to irregular heart rhythm, heart failure, and inflammation of the lungs with shortness of breath.

Because polymyositis can appear in combination with other illnesses (see related articles on systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis), it can also have overlap features with them. These illnesses are discussed elsewhere.

Both polymyositis and dermatomyositis can sometimes be associated with cancers, including lymphoma, breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer. The cancer risk is reported to be much greater with dermatomyositis than polymyositis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/20/2013

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