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Polymyositis is a disease that causes muscles to become irritated and inflamed. The muscles eventually start to break down and become weak. The condition can affect muscles all over the body. This can make even simple movements difficult. Polymyositis is one disease in a group of diseases called inflammatory myopathies.
The exact cause of polymyositis is not known. It most often happens in people ages 31 to 60. It rarely occurs in people younger than 18. Experts think that polymyositis may be related to or triggered by a virus or an autoimmune reaction. An autoimmune reaction is when the body attacks its own tissues. In some cases, a medication may lead to an allergic response that causes muscle irritation and damage. But in most cases, health care providers aren’t able to find the exact cause of the condition.
The condition affects muscles all over the body, and can impair more than the ability to run, walk, or lift objects. It can also affect the muscles that allow you to eat and breathe. The muscles that are closest to the center of the body tend to be affected the most often. These are known as proximal muscles.
The common symptoms of polymyositis include:
Polymyositis can make it hard to do everyday things. You may notice trouble walking up a flight of stairs, lifting up your arms, or getting out of your chair. As inflammation gets worse around the body, pain and weakness may affect the ankles, wrists, and lower arm area.
Weight loss and poor nutrition may become a problem if muscle weakness leads to trouble eating and swallowing.
The process starts with a medical history and a physical exam. The exam will include seeing how strong your muscles are. Tests may also be done, such as:
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, your age, and your general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. There's no cure for polymyositis, but the symptoms can be managed. You may need more than one kind of treatment. And your treatment may need to be changed over time. In severe cases, some treatments are not as effective. Treatments include:
Talk with your health care providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medications.
If polymyositis is not treated, it can lead to severe complications. As the muscles become weaker, you may fall often and be limited in your daily activities. If the muscles in the GI tract and chest wall are affected, you have respiratory failure, malnutrition, and weight loss. Polymyositis that is treated but can't be managed well can cause in severe disability. This includes an inability to swallow or breathe without help.
There is no known way to prevent polymyositis, as the exact cause is not known. In some cases where medications may be to blame, avoiding these medications can prevent future episodes of the condition.
If your symptoms get worse or you notice new symptoms, notify your health care provider. If you have trouble breathing or can't swallow normally, you may need emergency medical help.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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