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What Is Dermatomyositis?

Dermatomyositis is a rare condition marked by a skin rash and muscle weakness. It primarily affects adult women, though it occurs in men and children as well.

Dermatomyositis acts like an autoimmune disorder in that the immune system attacks its own tissues. With dermatomyositis, the immune system attacks the skin’s connective tissues and the muscles’ blood vessels. Hereditary and/or environmental factors may trigger the immune system’s behavior.

There is no cure for dermatomyositis, but treatment can help patients clear the skin rash and regain muscle strength.


Dermatomyositis presents with a variety of symptoms.

  • Skin rash – An itchy, painful rash develops on the face, knees, chest, back, eyelids, elbows and knuckles. It’s reddish or purple in color and scaly or rough.

  • Muscle weakness – Muscles closest to the trunk such as the neck, hips, thighs, shoulders and upper arms become progressively weaker.

  • Inflammation – Swelling around fingernails may occur.

  • Calcinosis – Lumpy or sheet-like calcium deposits form under the skin.

  • Additional symptoms – You may also experience fatigue, trouble swallowing and difficulty rising from a seated position or after a fall.

Treatment Options

Dermatologists use the following treatments to help patients manage symptoms:

  • Medications – Steroids such as prednisone are most often prescribed. Rituximab (Rituxan), a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, may also help ease dermatomyositis symptoms. Antimalarial pills such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) treat stubborn rashes. Immunosuppressant drugs may be prescribed to reduce inflammation if steroids don’t work.

  • Therapies Physical therapy improves strength and flexibility.

  • Procedures – Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) pumps antibodies into your system to block harmful antibodies from attacking skin and muscles. Surgery may benefit patients with painful calcium deposits.

  • Sunscreen – Physicians recommend sunscreen to protect rash from sun exposure.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of dermatomyositis, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat dermatomyositis.