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Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology

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UPMC Myositis Center

At the UPMC Myositis Center, our experienced physicians provide advanced, comprehensive care and treatment for patients suffering from myositis.

The center strives to be a leader in myositis research and is constantly developing better therapies for the treatment of myositis and its complications This commitment ensures that patients receive the most advanced care so that they can return to a normal and active lifestyle.

About myositis

Myositis is a rare disease in which the immune system chronically inflames the body's own healthy muscle tissue.

The persistent inflammation progressively weakens the muscles and may be associated with inflammation in other organs, including the:

  • Joints
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Intestines
  • Skin

In dermatomyositis, a rash develops along with muscle inflammation.

In rare cases, myositis can occur in a single part of the body, such as one arm, one leg, or just the muscles that move the eye.

For some people, myositis is a short-term problem that goes away after a few days or weeks. For others, it is part of a chronic condition.

Chronic forms of myositis can lead to muscle atrophy (wasting and shrinking) and severe disability, if not properly treated.

Living with myositis

Although myositis is serious and potentially life-threatening, this disease is treatable and the outcomes are generally favorable.

However, like most autoimmune conditions, myositis can be chronic and requires frequent follow-up with a rheumatologist and other specialists.

It's also important for patients to communicate with their primary care doctors about the disease and treatment, and to have regular check-ups for general health maintenance.

The Myositis Association is an excellent support group and source of information for people with myositis.

Diagnosing Myositis

Before diagnosing a patient with myositis, the doctors at the UPMC Myositis Center must first rule out other conditions that affect muscles.

Signs and symptoms of myositis

  • Weakness and pain in the muscles of the hips and shoulders are often the first signs of myositis.
  • Myositis can affect the muscles in the front of the neck and throat, making it hard to speak or swallow.
  • When it affects the lungs or chest muscles, you may have trouble breathing.
  • People with dermatomyositis may also develop a rash on the face, knuckles, and other parts of the body.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling

Testing for myositis

Myositis can be challenging to diagnose. Your doctor must rule out other conditions that affect muscles, such as:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Toxin exposure
  • Drug reactions
  • Genetic disorders

In addition to a physical exam, the following tests may be ordered:

  • Blood tests — to look for autoantibodies and muscle enzymes such as creatine kinase (CK)
  • Electromyogram (EMG) — to measure the electrical pattern of the muscles
  • Muscle biopsy — A small piece of muscle is removed and examined by microscope to show if muscle fibers are damaged
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — to identify areas where muscles are inflamed

Treatments for Myositis

Treatment options at the UPMC Myositis Center include:

Medicines

  • Corticosteroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system may slow down the attack on healthy tissue and improve skin rash.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help relieve pain.

Exercise

  • After drug treatment takes effect, your doctor may prescribe a program of regular stretching exercises to help maintain range of motion in weakened arms and legs.
  • Physical therapy may also help prevent permanent muscle shortening.

Rest

  • Getting enough rest is an important component of managing myositis.
  • Take frequent breaks during the day and limit your activity.
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