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What is Polymyositis? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Polymyositis is a rare disease in which inflammation develops in certain area of the body. It occurs more frequently in women and people between the ages of 30 and 50. It also forms a subtype within a group of diseases known as myositis.

In the following article, we’ll tell you more about polymyositis.

Symptoms of polymyositis

As a rule, this disorder’s systemic, i.e., it can affect any area of the body. Usually, the subject suffers from a series of alterations or signs that can be related to this disease. These appear little by little and worsen with the evolution of polymyositis.

Thus, among the symptoms that appear most frequently we include:

  • Tiredness, fatigue, or general weakness.
  • Fever that may vary in intensity but isn’t usually high.
  • Skin changes that are grouped under the name of dermatomyositis, a disease in which there’s swelling and formation of rashes on the skin.
  • Skin tenderness over the affected areas.
  • Intense pain or discomfort in the skeletal muscles. This condition worsens after a certain amount of intense physical activity.
  • Morning stiffness in the involved joints.

Another characteristic symptom is muscle weakness, usually affecting the shoulder and hip muscles. It can cause several general problems:

  • Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). This condition, in turn, can lead to poor appetite. Therefore, it’s possible that the subject to lose weight in a short period of time (without trying).
  • Voice alterations that modify the patient’s normal speech.
  • Difficulty breathing that may even lead to respiratory failure. Aspiration (entry of food, saliva, etc.) into the lungs can also occur. In this case, the risk of pneumonia increases considerably.
  • Difficulty carrying out a series of activities involving muscles that may be altered. For example, lifting objects above the head or getting up when the patient is sitting.

Causes of Polymyositis

At present, the specific cause or trigger of this disorder hasn’t been identified. However, recent studies have found similar characteristics to autoimmune diseases.

In these diseases, our body’s cells mistakenly attack internal tissues, progressively degrading them. On the other hand, an infection could also be a cause.

Diagnosis

The medical team can carry out a series of tests to arrive at a diagnosis. This way, they can identify the disease and, at the same time, rule out other diseases with similar symptoms. Among the most common procedures are the following:

  • Physical examination. In it, the specialists check the symptoms that the patient may feel, their clinical history, and their antecedents (family members who may have suffered from the same ailment).
  • Muscle biopsy. A small amount of affected muscle is removed and analyzed with laboratory tests.
  • Internal imaging, for example, using magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI) on the altered muscles.
  • Use of electromyography to check both the condition of the nerves and muscles in the area.
  • Other routine tests such as blood and urine analysis.

Treatment for Polymyositis

There’s still no definitive cure for this disease but several therapies have been developed in this regard. Therefore, the ultimate goal of treatment will be to alleviate the symptoms that the subject presents and improve their quality of life. Regarding treatment, we include recommendations such as:

  • Use of drugs or medications. For example, corticosteroids and other complementary drugs. Their use must be controlled by the medical team since their prolonged use can cause a series of very harmful side effects.
  • Various kinds of therapy. We’re referring to physiotherapy, guidelines to regain daily speech, and the consumption of an appropriate diet as the disease progresses.

Polymyositis is a disease with good therapeutic prospects for the future. The treatment of symptoms improves the patient’s quality of life considerably.

Studies are currently underway to develop an etiological treatment for the disease and resolve the cause, but all of them are still in the clinical trial phase and aren’t yet commercialized.

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