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Dermatomyositis

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Dermatomyositis is a rare autoimmune disease characterized by muscle weakness and a skin rash. A healthy immune system protects your child from infection by attacking invaders such as viruses or other pathogens. In children with dermatomyositis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissue, causing inflammation. Dermatomyositis is part of a larger group of muscle disorders known as inflammatory myopathies.

At Children’s Health℠, we work closely with both you and your primary care provider so that everyone involved has the information they need to create the best outcomes for your child.

Symptoms

Symptoms

Symptoms of dermatomyositis may include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle pain or tenderness
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, getting into a car, or getting up out of a chair
  • A reddish-purple skin rash on the face, knuckles, neck, shoulders, upper chest or back
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
Test & Diagnosis

Test & Diagnosis

There are several tests used to diagnose dermatomyositis in children. A doctor will go over your child's medical history and perform a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may also perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a noninvasive test that uses magnetic fields to produce images of the body
  • Electromyography, in which a thin needle is inserted through the skin and into the muscle to test the electrical activity of the muscle
  • Muscle biopsy, which involves the removal of a small amount of tissue from the muscle using a needle. The tissue is later examined under a microscope
  • Skin biopsy, which is the removal of a small amount of tissue from the skin using a small blade or skin punch tool. The tissue is later examined under a microscope

Not every child needs all these tests. Your physician will tell you exactly what the next steps are. Each year, the specialists at Children’s Health see more than 1,000 pediatric patients for dermatomyositis and other rheumatic disorders. We have the skills and resources necessary to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for your child too.

Treatment

The severity of your child’s dermatomyositis will determine the treatment. Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Medications to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation
  • Physical therapy to improve muscle strength and flexibility
  • Speech therapy to improve swallowing
  • Skin protection (sunscreen, protective clothing) to help control skin rash
  • Dietary changes to compensate for chewing or swallowing difficulties

Children’s Health is part of the largest and longest established multi-specialty clinic for children with rheumatic diseases in the region. In our rheumatology clinic, dedicated health care professionals help patients and their families manage diseases like dermatomyositis.

Children’s Health uses a multidisciplinary approach to caring for your child. This allows us to offer our patients care from multiple specialists and experts, in a single appointment, at one location. If your child has symptoms of a rheumatic disorder such as dermatomyositis, contact us. We provide the comprehensive and individualized care necessary to put your child back on the path to a healthy life.
 

Resources

For more information on dermatomyositis, refer to the following resources

A more comprehensive list can be obtained from your child's doctor.

FAQs

What is dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is a muscle disease that is characterized by muscle weakness and a skin rash.

What causes dermatomyositis?

The exact cause of dermatomyositis is unknown. It is believed that it may be caused by a virus or by problems with the immune system.

How do I know if my child has dermatomyositis?

If your child has symptoms of dermatomyositis, you should have him evaluated by a physician. Symptoms of dermatomyositis may include muscle weakness; muscle pain or tenderness; difficulty climbing stairs, getting into a car, or getting up out of a chair; a reddish-purple skin rash; difficulty swallowing and shortness of breath.

What kinds of tests are used to diagnose dermatomyositis?

Tests used to diagnose dermatomyositis include blood tests, MRIs, electromyography, muscle biopsy, and skin biopsy.

How is dermatomyositis treated?

Treatments for dermatomyositis may include medications, physical therapy, speech therapy, skin protection, and dietary changes.

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