Are There Any Cures for Polymyositis?

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What is Polymyositis?

Polymyositis is a disease that affects the skeletal muscles, which are very important for normal movements. Classified as an inflammatory disease, the onset of polymyositis generally occurs over a prolonged period of time. Starting with the trunk of the body, the disease can spread to the proximal muscles to include the shoulders, arms, and legs.

This disease has been diagnosed and reported in adults between the ages of 31 to 60, with rare cases occurring in children under the age of 18. More prevalent in the African-American population, polymyositis affects approximately 1 in 100,000 individuals per year.

Symptoms of Polymyositis

The most commonly reported symptom of patients diagnosed with polymyositis is muscle pain and weakness, especially in the extremities and trunk area of the body. If the condition continues to worsen, the individual will face problematic occurrences causing difficulties with normal daily activities. The hindered daily activities can include problems with walking, standing, climbing stairs, and lifting objects.

In patients where polymyositis affects vital areas of the body, the patient displays problems with dyphagia (difficulty swallowing), shortness of breath, heart problems, lung conditions, and complications with the abdominal area. In some patients, death has been reported from malignant cancer, malnutrition, and lung disease to include pneumonia and respiratory failure.

What Causes Polymyositis?

The exact cause of polymyositis is unknown. It is classified as an idiopathic disease, meaning the origin is not known. Some research indicates the causative factors can be of an autoimmune, viral, or genetic origin.

How to Diagnose Polymyositis

The diagnosis of polymyositis starts with performing a physical evaluation and obtaining the patients medical history. This disease is generally diagnosed by a neurologist who will suggest a battery of tests to include blood tests, electromyography (EMG), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

The blood test is performed to check creatine phoshpokinase (CPK) levels. If the levels of the CPK are elevated, injury and/or stress to the muscle tissue, brain, or heart is a possibility. The EMG test is done to test the electrical activity in the muscles and the MRI is used for a visual reference to detect muscle inflammation and damage. Both of these tests are useful if a muscle biopsy is required to target specific areas.

If polymyositis is suspected after the non-invasive tests are performed, a physician will order another specific blood test called Myositis-Specific Autoantibodies. This test is known to detect antibodies of polymyositis in approximately 20 to 30 percent of patients. A muscle biopsy, which uses either a needle or an open incision to remove a small piece of muscle tissue, is performed as a more definitive test to ensure the patient is suffering from polymyositis.

What Are the Treatments for Polymyositis?

The treatment for polymyositis focuses on treating the symptoms. The options will vary depending the patients symptoms or physical abilities and include physical therapy, exercise, medication, and rest. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce the inflammation that causes the inflammation and pain. The methods used include prescribing corticosteroid or immunosuppressant drug to reduce inflammation.

Conventional treatments are also suggested to decrease pain and prevent muscle atrophy from occurring. Combining physical therapy and exercise with heat therapy is recommended to regain muscle strength, increase range of motion, and reduce swelling.

Research Studies on Polymyositis

Scientific studies are an ongoing project for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) to explore the cause of inflammatory diseases such as polymyositis. The research is focused on genetic factors, viral infection roles, and focusing on finding the cures for polymyositis.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: NINDS Polymyositis Information Page

The New York Times Health: Polymyositis – Adult