Dermatomyositis (DM) is among the rarer of muscle diseases. It is essentially an inflammatory muscle disease. This means that it is not caused by neurological problems and inflammation along with stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints are its main symptoms. Dermatomyositis is often grouped under autoimmune connective tissue diseases and presents symptoms that are associated with polymyositis and myositis. Even today, there are no defined cures for this condition. Only management of the pain through specialized exercise therapy and some forms of pain-alleviating and supplementary treatments are prescribed to ensure better quality-of-life for the patient.

Dermatomyositis usually affects the muscles and the tissues around it, including the ligaments, joints and cartilages. This condition has an autoimmune origin. This means that it is caused by problems in the manner in which the immune system functions.. Here, inflammatory cells of the human immune system tend to perceive the body’s own blood vessels (supplying the muscles and skin) as external agents. They start releasing antibodies that attack the blood vessels, causing constriction of blood vessels and decreased blood supply to the muscles. There isn’t much clarity as to why this unwanted immune reaction is generated but it is largely believed that interactions among some drugs/medications consumed by an individual are capable of triggering the misdirected response from the immune system.

In terms of onset of Dermatomyositis, there isn’t much clarity as this condition can surface anytime between childhood and adulthood without any prior symptoms or signs of an underlying problem. There are some typical symptoms that set apart Dermatomyositis from other types of muscle disease. Firstly, most of the muscle diseases have little impact on the external appearance of the affected individual apart from some disorders that cause rigidity among the facial muscles, making the facial expressions a bit abnormal. However, Dermatomyositis is characterized by reddish or dark-purplish patches that seem like a patch of rash. The skin develops a rather typical scaly and rough appearance. Many patients of Dermatomyositis complain about the skin hurting upon scratching it which is primarily due to the hard calcium nodules that start developing under the skin. This is accompanied by some of the most common muscle disease symptoms such as overall weakness of the muscles.

Patients of Dermatomyositis suffer more in the thighs, upper arms, hips, upper back and shoulder area in terms of weak musculature and impaired bodily movement. Such people find it difficult to move their neck freely and many times, respiratory problems also surface along with distinct difficulty in swallowing. There is always the threat of the joints becoming too rigid and painful. The rarest of Dermatomyositis symptoms include problems in the beating of the heart, i.e. when the cardiac muscles are also affected.

The progression of Dermatomyositis is rather gradual and it tends to surface in a manner that is hard to decode for most physicians. This is because bodily pains or musculo-skeletal complaints are usually treated as mild-to-moderate problems that are usually resolved with some basic, prescription medications. However, the gradual worsening of the symptoms, development of purple colored patches on the patient’s skin and a period of using immunosuppressant medications in the patient’s history eventually indicate towards a more serious underlying problem, i.e. Dermatomyositis.

Please note that unlike most of the neuromuscular diseases of the muscles, Dermatomyositis is not genetically passed on from the parents to the child, i.e. it is not genetic in nature though it is generally believed that Dermatomyositis does have some degree of genetic predisposition. Dermatomyositis can affect people irrespective of their race, age and sex. Until now, its prevalence has been found to be more among women.

Dermatomyositis can be easily differentiated from other muscles diseases mainly because of its typical skin rash. When a patient develops such patches on the face, particularly the cheeks, nose and eyelids and complains of extreme muscle weakness, chances of Dermatomyositis being the diagnosis rise exponentially. The painful nodules that develop during Dermatomyositis are essentially because of a condition called Calcinosis that refers to abnormally high rate of calcification. The inflammation among the blood vessels is referred to as Vasculitis. Some patients of DM are also noted to have abnormal changes in their voice, referred to as Dysphonia, where increase in hoarseness of the voice is notable.