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Dermatomyositis is a “connective tissue disease”, which causes inflammatory changes in the muscle, along with a skin rash. The cause is not known. It usually starts with an itchy, burning, reddish or bluish rash on sun-exposed areas. As the disease progresses, muscle weakness appears. The arm and thigh muscles are most affected. You may have a hard time climbing stairs, getting out of chairs, lifting heavy things, or raising the arms overhead. Sometimes the muscles ache and become tender. The swallowing muscles may also be affected.

This condition is treated with oral steroids to slow down the progression of disease. Other medicines may be added as part of the treatment. Some patients (20%) will recover. Others will require treatment over their lifetime.

Dermatomyositis is believed to be associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer (ovarian, stomach, lymphoma). Therefore, periodic screening exams by your primary care doctor are recommended.

Home Care:

  • The rash is sensitive to sun exposure. Use sun protection (hats, cover-up clothing) and sun screen in exposed areas (at least SPF 15).

  • If you are having muscle aches, rest as needed.

  • Light exercise and physical activity are helpful to keep your muscles in the best shape possible. Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that is right for you.

  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.] Don’t take ibuprofen or other NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) medicine if you were prescribed prednisone.


Follow Up

with your doctor or as advised by our staff. For more information contact:

  • Myositis Association

  • Arthritis Foundation 


Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Vision changes

  • Change in bowel or bladder habits

  • Blood in the stool (black or red color)

  • Unexpected weight loss

  • Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Persistent cough or hoarseness

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider


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