The dermatomyositis - A rare autoimmune disorder in which the muscles and skin become inflamed. In most cases the cause is unknown, but in some instances the disease is linked to an underlying cancer.

Dermatomyositis causes a skin rash that may first appear on the bridge of the nose and cheeks, followed by a purple discoloration on the eyelids and sometimes a red rash over the knees, knuckles, and elbows. Muscles become weak, stiff, and painful, particularly those in the shoulders and pelvis; affected people may find that they cannot raise their hands above their head, or cannot raise themselves from a squatting position. Calcium may be deposited in the muscles, particularly in affected children.

The diagnosis is made by medical examinations, blood tests, and biopsy of muscle tissue. Treatment is with corticosteroids and/or immunosuppressant drugs and physiotherapy. In about half of all cases, full recovery occurs after a few years. The remainder have persistent muscle weakness. In some cases, the disease eventually affects the lungs and other organs and may be fatal.


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