What Is Polymyositis?
An autoimmune disease that brings on chronic muscle weakness and inflammation, long-term, untreated polymyositis can diminish the ability to walk. Though it can affect anyone, it is most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15 and women, ages 50 to 70.
Currently, there is no known cause for polymyositis, despite research suggesting there is a genetic component involved. Should polymyositis be present, other conditions often are as well, including:
- Heart disease, particularly congestive heart failure or heart arrhythmia
- Lung disorders and diseases that result in scarring of lung tissue
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Because polymyositis causes muscle weakness, symptoms primarily involve the muscles. However, other symptoms may arise as well. Typical symptoms include:
- Cough — Polymyositis may bring about a chronic dry cough.
- Loss of balance — An increase in falling and difficulty getting back up after a fall often occur.
- Muscle weakness — Though occasionally found in fingers or toes, weakness is normally found in muscles located near the body’s center, such as the thighs and hips, shoulders and neck, forearms, and back.
- Swallowing issues — In the event polymyositis affects muscles in the neck, swallowing can become difficult, which is known as dysphagia.
Diagnosis of polymyositis utilizes strength tests and may include blood tests or a MRI screening. Some treatment options are:
- Medications — Corticosteroids decrease muscle inflammation and immunosuppressant medications help the immune system stop attacking the body and causing inflammation.
- Therapies — To prevent and recover atrophied muscles, exercise under the guidance of a physical therapist is prescribed. Applying heating pads to pained areas (heat therapy) may also help affected muscles.
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