Myositis is an uncommon autoimmune muscle condition that affects only a small percentage of the population (about 50,000 to 75,000 Americans). Myositis is not inherited but is caused by the immune system attacking healthy muscle tissue. It can affect people of any age, including children.
Myositis involves chronic inflammation of the muscles, leading to weakness, pain, and reduced mobility, and often occurs together with other symptoms. The main muscles affected are around the neck, shoulders, hips, back, and thighs, but other parts of the body can be affected, such as the skin, lungs, or heart.
There are various forms of myositis, including the following:
- Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM) – This most common form of myositis predominantly targets adults over 50, and more often men than women. It progresses more slowly than other forms and manifests in the smaller muscles of the hands and forearms, impacting the grip and fine motor skills.
- Dermatomyositis – “Derma” pertains to the skin. Those with dermatomyositis may experience skin rashes before muscle weakness begins. This form of myositis is more common among women
- Polymyositis – “Poly” denotes “many.” Polymyositis signifies inflammation spreading to numerous muscles, particularly those encircling the shoulders, hips, and thighs. Striking after age 20, it affects more women than men.
What Causes Myositis?
- Autoimmune Response: In most cases, myositis occurs when the immune system attacks muscle fibers, leading to inflammation and weakness.
- Environmental Factors: Certain infections, like viruses or bacteria, may trigger myositis in individuals with a genetic predisposition.
- Medications: Rarely, certain medications can induce myositis as a side effect.
What are the Symptoms of Myositis?
- Muscle Weakness: Gradual or sudden muscle weakness, which may affect different muscle groups in the body.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired and lacking energy, even after minimal physical exertion.
- Muscle Pain and Tenderness: Experiencing discomfort or tenderness in affected muscles.
- Difficulty in Movement: Struggling with activities that involve muscle strength, such as climbing stairs, lifting objects, or getting up from a seated position.
- Skin Changes: Some forms of myositis are accompanied by characteristic skin rashes, such as Gottron papules or heliotrope rash.
Patients with myositis often experience:
- Difficulty rising from a chair, climbing stairs, or lifting your arms
- A drop in blood pressure when shifting from sitting to standing
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Loss of strength throughout the body
Myositis Diagnosis and Treatment
The first step in any diagnosis is a medical history. The healthcare provider will ask questions about your health in general, including detailed personal and family health histories. The next step is a physical examination. The doctor will examine your skin symptoms and test your muscle strength. These will help the doctor decide on a diagnosis.
One or more of the following tests may also help confirm a specific diagnosis:
- Blood tests, especially the levels of certain muscle enzymes in the blood, could give the doctor important clues about what may be causing your symptoms.
- Diagnostic tests may include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and/or an electromyogram (EMG) that measures electrical activity in your muscles.
- Muscle and/or skin biopsies are often the most accurate way to diagnose myositis. Small samples of muscle and/or skin tissue show abnormalities, including inflammation, damage, and abnormal proteins.
Treatment for myositis typically involves a combination of drug treatment, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications. Medications may include corticosteroids, such as prednisone, or immunosuppressant drugs to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms.
Choose SMC Physicians
If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of myositis, such as muscle weakness, pain, or skin changes, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional.
Our Rheumatology team at SMC Physicians can conduct a thorough evaluation, perform necessary tests, and provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. With proper medical care and lifestyle modifications, symptoms of myositis can often be managed, and quality of life improved. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention to better understand and address your condition.
While there is no known cure for myositis, with proper treatment and management, symptoms can often be controlled and quality of life improved. In most cases, treatment can put the condition into remission.
Conditions We Treat
We provide ultrasound-guided arthrocentesis (joint injections) of both steroids and gel injections such as Orthovisc and Synvisc.
We offer a state-of-the art private infusion center at each location, offering the following medications and more:
Our Rheumatology Locations: