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Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease that’s uncommon and is marked by weakness in the muscles and a skin rash that’s very distinctive. It affects children and adults alike. In adults, it normally occurs in the late 40’s to early 60’s. In children this disease often appears in kids aged 5 to 15 years. It is known to affect females more than males.
Dermatomyositis unfortunately has no cure. The good news is that there are treatments that can help in clearing the skin rash and help the patient regain their muscle functions and strength. There are also remissions periods where symptoms tend to improve spontaneously.
Common symptoms and signs of dermatomyositis include skin changes and muscle weakness. A rash that is either dusky-red or violet colored develops commonly on the face, eyelids and areas around the back, chest, knees, elbows, knuckles and nails.
This rash might be patchy and it could bring along discolorations that are bluish-purple in color. It is usually the first sign to look out for. Progressive weakness is common in the muscles especially those of the neck, upper arms, shoulders, thighs and hips. It affects both the right and left sides of the body and worsens gradually.
Its exact cause remains unknown but this disease shares several characteristics with various autoimmune disorders where the immune system is attacked mistakenly by the body tissues. Smaller blood vessels found in muscular tissues are the most affected.
These blood vessels are surrounded by inflammatory cells and this eventually leads to muscle fibers degenerating. Possible complications that could arise include difficulties in swallowing, aspiration pneumonia, breathing problems and calcium deposits.
Dermatomyositis causes several other conditions such as cancer, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, connective tissue diseases and Raynaud’s phenomenon. A patient is at a higher risk of developing these conditions.
There are other types / forms of Myositis:
- Juvenile forms of myositis.
- Inclusion- body myositis
The Myositis Foundation of Kenya is aimed at reaching to the whole world and bringing up resources of financial and information in terms of research, in order to better manage the various forms of myositis. Proper medication and counseling to the victims of myositis and their families is also an important issue.
To provide support to all myositis patients and their families at the same time educate and create awareness on all forms of Myositis. To also create a platform where patients share their experience and to assist in general medical welfare where need be.
Our vision is to reach out to as many individuals who suffer any form of myositis and their families as possible in Kenya and Africa.
Just like it is with many other muscle diseases, a doctor has to make a dermatomyositis diagnosis by considering individual family medical background, personal history and most importantly careful physical examinations. There are several lab tests that must be carried out to determine internal electrical activities in the muscles and normally a muscle biopsy. If DM is suspected then some of the tests that might be suggested include:
Blood Analysis: Blood tests will notify a doctor if the patient has higher levels of muscle enzymes for instance aldolase and creatine kinase abbreviated as CK. An increase in aldolase and CK levels indicates muscle damage. They’re also able to detect certain auto-antibodies related with various dermatomyositis symptoms. These help to determine best treatment and medication methods.
Muscle or Skin Biopsy: A minute piece of muscle or skin is taken out to be analyzed in the laboratory. A skin sample is able to confirm a dermatomyositis diagnosis thus ruling out different disorders like lupus. A biopsy is able to reveal muscle inflammation and other problems like infection or damage. Once a skin biopsy has confirmed the diagnosis then a muscle biopsy isn’t deemed so necessary.
Chest X-Ray: This is a simple test used for checking signs of the kind of lung damage which at times occurs with myositis.
Electromyography: A doctor who has specialized training will insert a thin needle electrocode via the skin into muscles for testing. Electrical activity gets measured as one relaxes or tightens the muscles. Changing patterns of electrical activities are able to confirm muscle diseases. Disease distribution can be determined through testing various muscles.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A scanner is used to create cross sectional muscle images using generated data from powerful radio waves and a magnetic field. Unlike biopsies, MRI’s are able to assess inflammation over large muscle areas.
Please consult your doctor.