Myositis is a general term used to describe the inflammation of muscle tissues. It is an inflammatory reaction that often leads to weakness or pain in the muscles. Inflammation in the muscle happens in response to a handful of rare autoimmune conditions. It can also sometimes be a side effect of certain medications or even the result of a viral illness.
Symptoms of Myositis
Symptoms of myositis can differ for each patient. In general, muscle weakness is the main symptom; however, many people may not notice any weakness at all. While some patients do report pain in the affected muscles, others have none.
The most commonly affected muscles are the shoulders, hips, and thighs. However, these are not the only areas that myositis can affect. Myositis can affect the skin (as in dermatomyositis), lungs, or heart as well.
General Symptoms Include:
- Weight loss
- Elevated muscle enzymes
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
Treatment of Myositis
As with other autoimmune conditions, treatments for polymyositis or dermatomyositis are not intended to cure the condition. Instead, they focus on managing or reducing symptoms. Reducing inflammation is vitally essential to ensure that muscle tissue isn’t lost. Treatment is important for improving a patient’s quality of life and may be necessary to prevent more severe complications, especially if the condition affects the heart or lungs.
Treatment plans often include using steroids to reduce the inflammation in the tissues. Immunosuppressant drugs may also be used to prevent inflammation from returning. Once symptoms are well controlled, regular exercise or physical therapy can help restore muscle strength.
Learn More About Myositis
Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Myositis?
Any condition that causes muscle inflammation can cause myositis. The two conditions that occur most often are dermatomyositis and polymyositis. Polymyositis is when inflammation affects the muscles closest to the trunk of your body. Dermatomyositis causes similar muscle inflammation, but it also causes an itchy, sometimes painful rash.
Both are considered autoimmune conditions. As with other autoimmune disorders, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks otherwise healthy muscle tissue, which causes inflammation.
Autoimmune issues are not the only source of inflamed muscle tissue. Before making a diagnosis, the doctor must consider the complete picture of a patient’s medical history. Some medications, particularly statins used for high cholesterol, can cause drug-induced myopathies (general muscle weakness). Myopathies can also be the result of a viral or bacterial infection.
How is Myositis Diagnosed?
Diagnosing myositis can be challenging. Each patient can have vastly different symptoms, and there is no single definitive test that can be used for everyone.
A proper myositis diagnosis should come from a doctor. To work toward a diagnosis, a doctor will review the patient’s medical history. Next, they will conduct a complete physical exam. This exam will include testing muscle strength or asking the patient to demonstrate specific activities that show signs of reduced strength. The doctor will also look for rashes or other symptoms that might be visible.
Next, the doctor will order blood tests to look for increased muscle enzyme levels or autoantibodies. An MRI can be used to look for damage in the muscle tissues. A test called electromyography (EMG) is sometimes used to look for reduced muscle activity. A muscle biopsy is considered the most accurate test and is used to confirm a diagnosis.
Dr. Tamar Brionez
About Our Doctor
Dr. Brionez has more than 10 years of experience in diagnosing and treating rheumatic musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions. She has a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Texas A&M University and completed her Doctor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Additionally, she completed her Fellowship in Rheumatology at the University of Texas-Health Science Center. Dr. Brionez is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Rheumatology and has been in private practice since 2009.
Dr. Brionez is known for her dedication to her patients and her ability to diagnose complex conditions. She adheres to the highest standards of medical care while relying on cutting-edge technology and the most up-to-date medical research. Dr. Brionez has adopted a holistic view of her patients’ health and is considered a leading specialist in managing complex autoimmune disorders including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, scleroderma, osteoporosis, and many others. She is fluent in Spanish and is dedicated to hiring diverse staff to best meet her patients’ needs.