Polymyositis symptoms

The symptoms of polymyositis tend to gradually appear over a period of time and therefore it can be extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly when they started. You may also find that your symptoms tend to fluctuate from week to week. The most common symptom of polymyositis is a progressive weakness in the muscles. The muscles that are generally affected are the ones closest to the trunk, such as those found in your thighs, hips, shoulders, arms and neck. You will actually find that the muscle weakness tends to be symmetrical and will normally affect both your left and right sides.

The muscle weakness caused by polymyositis will usually start subtly before progressing during the course of the disease. You will often find it very difficult to climb stairs, to lift objects, to stand up from a seated position and to reach for something overhead. The other symptoms of polymyositis include difficulty speaking, shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty swallowing and mild joint or muscle tenderness. A group of muscle disorders known as inflammatory myopathies are responsible for polymyositis, although the cause of this group of disorders is unknown.

Inflammatory myopathies may be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. However on the majority of occasions polymyositis cannot be identified by a preceding infection. Certain members of the medical profession believe that the disease is caused by genetic susceptibility. You will actually find that inflammatory myopathies share many of the same characteristics as autoimmune disorders. This is specifically where your immune system attacks your normal body components. Although your immune system typically works to protect you against attack by foreign substances, polymyositis may often trigger autoimmune antibodies that actually attack your body’s own tissues.

You are likely to experience certain complications because of polymyositis and these include difficulty swallowing, breathing problems, aspiration and pneumonia, and deposits of calcium are likely to occur in your muscles, skin and connective tissues. Polymyositis is also associated with certain conditions such as cardiovascular disease, lung disease, Reynaud’s phenomenon and other connective tissue diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. The symptoms of polymyositis may well worsen in women who are pregnant. The disease is also known to increase the risk of premature birth or stillbirth.

In order to diagnose polymyositis you may have to undergo a fairly lengthy process. This will involve a thorough physical examination and will include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), muscle tests such as an electromyography and a muscle biopsy. You also need to have certain blood test which will allow your doctor to know whether you have increased levels of muscle enzymes such as creatine, aldolase or kinase.

There is, unfortunately, no actual cure for polymyositis. However, certain treatments are able to improve your muscle strength and functions. The sooner you can start treatment, the more effective it is likely to be. Drugs such as corticosteroids are able to suppress your immune system. This in turn will limit the production of antibodies and therefore will also reduce muscle inflammation. Additionally you should find that this will improve your overall muscle strength and functioning. However, it is not recommended that corticosteroids are used for a prolonged period of time as they may cause some very serious side-effects. If your condition does not respond to corticosteroids, your doctor may recommend certain other medications. These may include azathioprine and methotrexate.

Other methods to treat polymyositis will include certain antibody therapies. This may involve an intravenous immunoglobulin which typically contains healthy antibodies from blood donors. Certain immunosuppressive therapies may also be prescribed in addition to corticosteroids and other drugs. Investigational treatments such as biological therapies are sometimes prescribed. Rituximab is known to improve muscle strength, although this drug is not specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Physical therapy is often used to treat polymyositis. Your physical therapist will be able to show you certain exercises that can improve your strength and flexibility. You may also require a dietetic assessment as chewing and swallowing are likely to become far more difficult as polymyositis progresses. Some people may even require speech therapy as you will find that your swallowing muscles will weaken. Speech therapy will allow you to compensate for these changes.

If you are suffering with polymyositis it is recommended that you start an exercise routine. This will allow you to maintain and build your muscle strength, but you should always get a detailed plan from either your doctor or physical therapist. It is also vitally important that you rest whenever you feel tired and never wait until you are exhausted. You should learn to pace yourself as this will help you to maintain consistent levels of energy. It is also critical that you learn as much about this illness as possible otherwise this may just lead to denial, frustration and anger. People who suffer with polymyositis often feel isolated and unable to confide in others. Therefore you should aim to involve your family and friends and try to maintain your daily routine as much as possible.

Last updated on Jan 27th, 2011 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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