Polymyositis: an attack on the muscles

Polymyositis, characterized by painful inflammation and muscle deterioration is a chronic condition of the connective tissue. It occurs in adults between 40 and 60 or in children between 5 and 15. Women have twice the risk of developing the condition than men.

Causes and symptoms

Although the cause is unknown, viruses or autoimmune reactions may play a certain role. Cancer may also trigger the development of the condition. Symptoms that may occur during or immediately after the infection include muscle weakness (especially the upper parts of the arms, hips and thighs), muscle pain, joint pain, rash, difficulty swallowing, fever, fatigue and weight loss.

Polymyositis is often diagnosed by measuring muscle weakness in the shoulders or hips. Also, a characteristic rash or elevated levels of certain muscle enzymes in the blood can be helpful in diagnosis.

What can be done

Avoiding all activity while the inflammation is most severe often helps. Taking corticosteroids (usually prednisone) orally generally slowly increases strength and reduces pain and swelling, thereby hindering the condition. However, in some cases, prednisone actually worsens the condition. In these cases, immunosuppressive drugs are used instead or alongside prednisone.

Source: Excerpt from the book "Living with Arthritis"


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