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UMass Chan Dermatology Blog: Where Research Meets Healthy Skin

Demystifying Dermatomyositis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Monday, April 29, 2024
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By:  Warda Abdi

Dermatomyositis is a rare autoimmune disorder that can involve both the skin and muscles. Delving into the intricacies of this condition is essential to grasp its impact on individuals and the challenges it poses. In the case of dermatomyositis, both the skin and muscles can become the unintended targets of the immune system's attacks. In some people, though, only their skin is affected1. This condition may present with various skin manifestations, such as scalp itching or burning, nail cuticle changes, or a rash on the face, hands, and other body parts. Patients may develop muscle weakness in the upper legs, hips, upper arms and shoulders.  This weakness can manifest in challenges such as climbing stairs, lifting objects, or even the seemingly simple act of standing up from a chair. 

While the exact cause of dermatomyositis is currently unknown it appears to have many different genetic and environmental factors1. Dermatomyositis can affect individuals of all ages, it is more prevalent in adolescents and adults between 40 and 60 years old. Dermatomyositis can be associated with  malignancy in adults and thorough cancer screening is typically performed for adult dermatomyositis patients. Dermatologists who specialize in caring for dermatomyositis patients help guide this screening and make sure that their patients receive the best possible care tailored to their specific situation.  

Managing dermatomyositis requires a collaborative effort involving a team of medical professionals, often led by a dermatologist or a rheumatologist. Treatment for dermatomyositis  usually includes oral or IV medications, and physical therapy can be very helpful if the muscles are involved. It is important that all dermatomyositis patients protect themselves well from the sun, as we know that sun exposure flares the disease.  While facing dermatomyositis comes with its set of challenges, it’s important to know that many individuals achieve complete recovery with appropriate support and care. Raising awareness, fostering understanding and ensuring that those affected receive the necessary support is very important.

References

Dermatomyositis. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Published January 29, 2024. Accessed March 25, 2024. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/dermatomyositis/