Recognizing the Signs of Polymyositis

Polymyositis is a rare disease that causes inflammation of skeletal muscle. Commonly known as idiopathic inflammatory myopathy, polymyositis affects more women than men, and it causes muscle weakness and sometimes muscle pain and tenderness.

If you’re dealing with unexplained muscle weakness, you should visit the board-certified rheumatologists at Valerius Medical Group & Research Center in Los Alamitos, California.  Nathaniel Neal, MD, and Rebekah Neal-Kraal, MD can get to the root of your muscle weakness.

In this blog, they explain what polymyositis is and the treatment options that are available for it.

What is polymyositis?

Polymyositis, which typically strikes people in their 40s, is a condition in which inflammation of the skeletal muscles causes weakness in both sides of the body. While the exact cause is unknown, an abnormal immune system response appears to be involved. A rheumatologist is the best person to visit for diagnoses and treatment of polymyositis. 

Signs and symptoms of polymyositis

Muscle weakness is the primary symptom of polymyositis. The neck, back, shoulders, hips, and thighs are most often affected. Less commonly, the hands and feet are affected. Polymyositis can affect your mobility and make it difficult to walk or climb stairs. You may also have trouble lifting things and standing from a sitting position.

Other symptoms of polymyositis include:

The symptoms tend to develop over the course of weeks or months. Sometimes, polymyositis affects the smooth muscle of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and heart muscle. When this happens, you may experience other symptoms, such as:

Eventually, polymyositis can cause muscle tissue to break down, which can make simple movements difficult. 

Treating polymyositis

Currently, there is no cure for polymyositis. However, there are treatments that can ease symptoms, boost strength, and lower the risk for complications. Some of the treatments include the following:

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are steroids with a powerful ability to calm inflammation throughout the body. 

Corticosteroid-sparing agents

Long-term use of corticosteroids may increase the risk of developing low bone-density, glaucoma, and vitamin D deficiency. For this reason, your doctor may use corticosteroids in combination with medications that can decrease the side effects of corticosteroids.

Rituximab

Rituximab is a medication that’s used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and certain other autoimmune disorders. It works by depleting certain antibodies to ease inflammatory symptoms. Your doctor may recommend rituximab if other treatments don’t adequately manage your symptoms.

Physical therapy

Therapeutic exercise can ease muscle pain, strengthen your muscles, and boost flexibility. Your physical therapist will design an individualized treatment plan to best manage your condition. 

Immunoglobulin therapy

Immunoglobulins are antibodies that are produced by the immune system to fight off infection and disease. With this therapy, immunoglobulins are donated from other people and given to you intravenously. These immunoglobulins can then help fight the autoimmune attack on your muscles.

To see if you may have polymyositis or another autoimmune condition, and to get treatment if needed, book an appointment online or over the phone with Valerius Medical Group & Research Center today.

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