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Myopathy is the medical term for muscle disease. Some muscle diseases occur when the body's immune system attacks muscles. The result is misdirected inflammation, hence the name inflammatory myopathies. This damages muscle tissue and makes muscles weak.
People with inflammatory myopathies may have these features:
Weakness in the large muscles around the neck, shoulders and hips, trouble climbing stairs, getting up from a seat, or reaching for objects overhead, little, if any, pain in the muscles, choking while eating or aspiration (intake) of food into the lungs, and shortness of breath and cough
The inflammatory myopathies include polymyositis and dermatomyositis. Muscle inflammation and weakness occur in both conditions while patients with dermatomyositis also have a rash. This rash most often appears as purple or red spots on the upper eyelids or as scaly, red bumps over the knuckles, elbows or knees. Children with the disease also may have white calcium deposits in the skin called calcinosis.
Sometimes patients can have the rash with no sign of muscle disease. Doctors call this form of the disease amyopathic dermatomyositis. People with dermatomyositis may also have lung inflammation that causes cough and shortness of breath. Children with the disease may have an inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) that can result in skin lesions.
Some doctors group a health problem called inclusion body myositis with the inflammatory myopathies. Yet, it differs from them. Men get it more often than women, and the patients tend to be older. Most of these patients do not respond to standard treatment. Therefore, this fact sheet will not discuss this disease.
This information is provided for general education only. Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment of a medical or health condition. © 2013 American College of Rheumatology