Polymyositis is a clinical picture that is not very common. According to statistical surveys, about 80 out of 100,000 people suffer from this disease. About twice or three times as many patients are affected by women than men.
What is polymyositis?
In order to define polymyositis, it is beneficial to look at the individual components of the term. Under the word part poly- the designation is understood in many ways. The Part Myo- names the muscle. See howsmb for Basal Cell Carcinoma Definition and Meaning.
The Greek ending -itis always indicates an inflammatory process. Polymyositis is therefore an inflammation that affects various muscles in the body. In medicine, polymyositis is categorized as a so-called collagenosis. In this context, polymyositis is one of the rheumatic diseases that are characterized by a chronic course.
In polymyositis, the muscle fibers and connective tissue are primarily affected by inflammatory impairments. In most of those affected, polymyositis progresses in phases, so that acute symptoms can also occur.
When finding the causal trigger for the polymyositis, it has not yet been possible to determine this unequivocally. It is assumed that polymositis as an autoimmune disease is favored by the destruction of muscle cells by the body’s own immune system.
In principle, hereditary causes are not among the factors that lead to polymyositis. In the case of polymyositis, special viruses or already existing diseases from the chronic rheumatic or collagen circles can also be the cause.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Polymyositis is initially manifested by fairly unspecific symptoms. Those affected initially feel tired and exhausted and are generally less efficient. The inflammatory disease eventually causes fever and chills. At the same time, there are outbreaks of sweating, high blood pressure and loss of appetite, each associated with further symptoms and complications.
General symptoms such as irritability and malaise occur more frequently and increase in intensity over the course of the first few weeks of the illness. Sore muscles in the affected muscles are also characteristic of polymyositis. These complaints occur primarily in the arms and legs and are independent of physical exertion. However, pain or tension can also occur with movement.
When the neck muscles are involved, movement disorders can also occur in the head area. The chronic form of muscle inflammation occasionally progresses without noticeable muscle pain. Only in the later stages can the disease be diagnosed on the basis of clear symptoms. If the lungs or larynx are involved, this leads to shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing and the typical lump in the throat.
The pathogens can spread to surrounding regions and, in the worst case, even to the heart. This is accompanied by muscle atrophy and weight loss. If left untreated, the muscle inflammation can lead to organ failure and thus to the death of the patient.
Diagnosis & History
The clinical course of polymyositis is characterized by painful symptoms that are similar to sore muscles. Patients suffering from polymyositis also show symptoms such as exhaustion and weakness, a decrease in muscle mass and usually what is known as dermatomyositis.
As a classic concomitant disease of polymyositis, this is usually accompanied by retention of water in the skin and erythema (dark red to purple skin discoloration), papules and skin erosions. In the acute course, polymyositis can lead to a loss of function of the lung muscles, shock and even death. Clearly increased values result from polymyositis in the determination of creatine kinase, an enzyme that is required for the breakdown of muscle protein.
When diagnosing polymyositis, it is important to aim for both laboratory values with regard to the determination of the body’s own antibodies and a quantitative test of the so-called muscle enzymes and special muscle proteins. In addition, in the differential diagnosis of polymyositis, it is important to record the patient’s symptoms precisely and to carry out a visual assessment.
The Raynaud’s phenomenon, which can be observed primarily on the hands, is one of the central indications, which are of enormous relevance in the diagnosis of polymyositis. Electromyography is recommended as a further diagnostic method for polymyositis.
Polymyositis is characterized by a number of different complaints in the patient. As a rule, those affected suffer from permanent muscle soreness and muscle weakness. As a result, strenuous physical activities and certain sports are no longer easily possible for those affected. Fever and joint pain are also not uncommon and continue to reduce the quality of life of those affected enormously.
Patients may also have difficulty swallowing, which can make eating difficult. This can lead to weight loss or various deficiency symptoms. The skin can also be affected by this disease, so that patients suffer from redness or scaly skin. In some cases, this can lead to inferiority complexes or depression and other psychological upsets.
As a rule, the patients are also ashamed of these complaints. Treatment of polymyositis is carried out with the help of drugs. As a rule, there are no further complications or other complaints. In most cases, however, the patients are dependent on lengthy therapy. The life expectancy of those affected is usually not affected by this disease.
When should you go to the doctor?
If your general performance steadily decreases over a period of several weeks or months, you should see a doctor for a check-up. Exhaustion, increased tiredness or a loss of life energy are warning signs of the organism and should be clarified. In the case of inflammatory processes, sweating or a decrease in the usual resilience, a doctor’s visit is required. Heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure and flu-like symptoms such as chills or fever should be presented to a doctor.
Shortness of breath, interruptions in swallowing or impairment of muscle strength are signs of a health problem. If the irregularities persist or increase in intensity, a doctor’s visit is recommended. Tension in the neck, inner irritability, a vague feeling of illness and a general feeling of being unwell should be examined and treated. If muscle wasting is observed, consult a doctor immediately. There is a need for action in the event of loss of body weight, functional disorders and pain.
Since polymyositis, if left untreated, can lead to the premature death of those affected, a doctor should be consulted as soon as the first irregularities or abnormalities appear. In the event of acute shortness of breath or loss of consciousness, an ambulance is required. At the same time, those present must provide first aid techniques to ensure that the victim survives until the emergency doctor arrives.
Treatment & Therapy
As part of the treatment of polymyositis, doctors and patients rely on the use of particularly high-quality drugs. In this regard, the focus of drug treatment is on the high dosages of steroid drugs, which are prescribed to inhibit inflammatory flare-ups.
In combination with these steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs such as prednisone, the active ingredients known as immunosuppressants are also taken against polymyositis. If those affected do not respond to these drugs and the breakdown of the muscles continues, the infusion-supported administration of immunoglobulins (special proteins) has proven itself.
This also helps to reduce the other dosages of the drugs. This is particularly beneficial given the very unpleasant side effects of prednisone in polymyositis.
There is no effective prophylaxis against polymyositis. Since an autoimmune disease, such as polymyositis, is caused by bodily factors that have not yet been precisely identified, these processes cannot be influenced.
The effectiveness of targeted protection against the usual pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites cannot be proven with regard to the development of polymyositis. For this reason, it is not possible to initiate meaningful preventive measures against polymyositis.
Inflammation of the skeletal muscles is always associated with pain sensation. The internal organs can also be affected. Polymyositis heals completely with proper therapy. In severe cases, it can have a fatal outcome. The inflammatory process promotes immune diseases, malignant tumors and arthritis. Because of these risks, follow-up care is required.
The symptoms are similar to those of muscle wasting (dystrophy). A differential diagnosis provides information on the actual cause. Therapy for polymyositis is very complex. The average treatment time is five years. The inflammation is treated with immunosuppressive drugs. The specialist doctor controls the patient’s condition, since the drugs are associated with strong side effects.
Painkillers relieve the symptoms and contribute to the patient’s quality of life. Even after treatment has been completed, many patients suffer from muscle weakness. It can no longer be reversed, preventive measures against further damage make sense. Physiotherapeutic exercises are recommended as follow-up care.
They must be carried out regularly in order to achieve long-term success. Mobility is maintained and further muscle damage is prevented. The specialist explains to the patient how to deal with the muscle weakness appropriately. In the event of rapid deterioration, treatment must be restarted immediately.
You can do that yourself
In the case of polymyositis, medical treatment must first take place. Depending on how severe the inflammation is, the patient can take various measures to support the therapy.
Changing your diet is important. Polymyositis patients should not consume foods that have a pro-inflammatory effect, such as spicy foods, coffee or alcohol. You should also drink enough water and supplement your diet with dietary supplements if necessary. It is best to talk to a nutritionist about a suitable diet for those affected. In addition, rest is important, because the muscles are usually very sensitive to pain and weakened. Special pressure bandages and pads with soothing drugs can reduce the pain.
If the symptoms get worse, it is best to inform the doctor. During treatment, it is important to monitor the symptoms and to pay attention to any side effects and interactions of the treatment. If in doubt, you should contact the responsible doctor. However, polymyositis can be treated well if it is detected early. Therefore, an important self-help measure is to identify inflammation and have it examined. Sport and a conscious lifestyle help to identify possible diseases at an early stage.