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    Dermatomyositis CIDPUSA  Foundation

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Page-2 Dermatomyositis Return to main page
What are polymyositis and dermatomyositis?  

 develop a rash, most often on your face, scalp, neck and chest. The rash can also appear on  hands & fingers (often the knuckles), elbows, knees, ankles, upper arms and thighs.

 The rash deep red in colour (almost purple) and in some areas may be slightly raised.

Joint pain
Joint pain commonly occurs during periods when the disease is active, but the joints are not usually warm or swollen, as often happens with other forms of arthritis.

Lung involvement
Polymyositis and dermatomyositis can cause weakness of the muscles required for breathing. They may also cause fibrosis (build up of excessive fibrous tissue) of the lungs. 

If you have one of the diseases and your lungs are involved you may experience coughing and shortness of breath.

Heart involvement
In rare cases myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular walls of the heart) and congestive heart failure (heart disease accompanied by breathlessness and excessive

retention of sodium and water) can occur as a result of polymyositis or dermatomyositis.

Calcium Deposits
Calcification (pronounced cal-si-fi-kay-shun) is hardening of skin and muscles as a result of calcium salt deposits. Calcification doesn’t often occur in adults with the disease,

but children with dermatomyositis may develop calcium deposits years after the disease starts. The deposits generally develop in the shoulder, pelvis, hip,

 calf and thigh and may severely limit motion. The masses that develop under the skin can rupture and the calcium salts may drain.

Another physical finding in dermatomyositis is the "machinist hands" with cracking and fissuring of the distal digital skin of the fingerpads. Picture on next page.

What causes polymyositis and dermatomyositis?  
  • With polymyositis and dermatomyositis, the body’s immune system makes a malfunction  with these diseases the immune system attacks healthy tissues.
  • What triggers this process is infections.

Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are autoimmune diseases.  This means that in with the immune system (which normally protects the body from germs, viruses, and bacteria)

malfunctioning.  It generates antibodies that attack healthy tissue in different parts of the body. The cause of polymyositis and dermatomyositis is infections viruses.

What can you do about polymyositis and dermatomyositis?   
  • If your doctor thinks you have polymyositis or dermatomyositis, he or she may refer you to a rheumatologist (pronounced room-a-tol-o-jist)
  • A rheumatologist is a doctor who has received special training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems with muscles, joints and bones.
  • Your doctor may order certain laboratory tests.  He or she might perform a test called an EMG.  This test measures the electric current in your muscles. 
  • He or she might also cut away a very small piece of muscle to be tested in a laboratory.
  • There is no cure for polymyositis or dermatomyositis, but there are things you can do to manage the disease.
  • Learn as much as you can about this disease.  Speaking with people who are specialists in arthritis care can provide you with the information you need.

There is possiability of early cure with IVIg, sosomething can be done to manage most forms of arthritis. 

To be able to diagnose whether you have polymyositis or dermatomyositis, your doctor will perform a physical examination and probably order laboratory tests, such as blood tests. 

One test, called a biopsy, involves cutting away a very small segment of muscle tissue for analysis.  Your doctor may also perform a test called an EMG.  With this test electrodes are

 taped to your skin and the electric currents running through your muscles are recorded. This shows whether your muscles are working properly.

A test called an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may also be done.  This test is somewhat like an X-ray, in that it creates a picture of the inside of your body.  X-rays are only used for

seeing bones though, and with an MRI a picture can also be taken of your muscles.

If you are diagnosed with polymyositis or dermatomyositis your active involvement in developing your prescribed treatment plan is essential. 

  • In most cases, oral cortisone is given to treat polymyositis and dermatomyositis. Cortisone is a steroid that reduces inflammation and can control your immune system.

continue to machinist hands in Scleroderma