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Polymyositis (PM)
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Polymyositis

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Polymyositis is an uncommon disease that causes inflammation in your muscles. Doctors also refer to it as a type of connective tissue disease. Its most noticeable characteristic is muscle weakness, especially in the muscles closest to your trunk, such as your shoulder and hip muscles. As a result, you may find it difficult to get out of chairs, climb stairs, brush your hair or work with your arms over your head. The disease is rarely fatal, but it can be disabling in its more severe forms.

Complications

If the muscles in your esophagus are affected, you may have problems swallowing (dysphagia), which in turn may cause weight loss and malnutrition. Dysphagia may also lead to entrance of food or liquids, including saliva, into your lungs (aspiration), which can lead to pneumonia. If your chest muscles are involved, you may experience breathing problems, such as shortness of breath. Deposits of calcium in your muscles, skin and connective tissues (calcinosis) can occur late in the disease, particularly if you've had the disease for a long time.

Polymyositis is often associated with other conditions, including:

  • Other connective tissue diseases. Diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome can occur in combination with polymyositis.

  • Cardiovascular disease. The muscle of your heart may become inflamed (myocarditis). In a small number of people who have polymyositis, congestive heart failure and heart arrhythmias may develop.

  • Lung disease. A condition called interstitial lung disease may occur with polymyositis. Interstitial lung disease refers to a group of disorders that cause inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) of lung tissue, making lungs stiff and inelastic. Symptoms include a dry cough and shortness of breath. In the late stage of lung disease, high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries (pulmonary hypertension) can occur and can lead to right-sided heart failure.

  • Cancer. Cancer may be more common in people with polymyositis, but the evidence for this association is more pronounced in dermatomyositis.

Pregnancy may worsen signs and symptoms in women whose disease is active. Active polymyositis can also increase the risk of premature birth or stillbirth. If the disease is in remission, the risk isn't as great.

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Last Modified : 03/15/08 01:54 AM