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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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Polymyositis

Polymyositis is one of a group of muscle diseases known as the inflammatory myopathies, which are characterized by chronic muscle inflammation accompanied by muscle weakness.  Polymyositis affects skeletal muscles (those involved with making movement) on both sides of the body.  It is rarely seen in persons under age 18; most cases are in adults between the ages of 31 and 60.  Progressive muscle weakness starts in the proximal muscles (muscles closest to the trunk of the body) which eventually leads to difficulties climbing stairs, rising from a seated position, lifting objects, or reaching overhead.  People with polymyositis may also experience arthritis, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing and speaking, and heart arrhythmias.  In some cases of polymyositis, distal muscles (muscles further away from the trunk of the body, such as those in the forearms and around the ankles and wrists) may be affected as the disease progresses.  Polymyositis may be associated with collagen-vascular or autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.  Polymyositis may also be associated with infectious disorders, such as HIV-AIDS.

Treatment

There is no cure for polymyositis, but the symptoms can be treated.  Options include medication, physical therapy, exercise, heat therapy (including microwave and ultrasound), orthotics and assistive devices, and rest.  The standard treatment for polymyositis is a corticosteroid drug, given either in pill form or intravenously.  Immunosuppressant drugs, such as azathioprine and methotrexate, may reduce inflammation in people who do not respond well to prednisone.  Periodic treatment using intravenous immunoglobulin can also improve recovery.  Other immunosuppressive agents used to treat the inflammation associated with polymyositis include cyclosporine A, cyclophosphamide, and tacrolimus.  Physical therapy is usually recommended to prevent muscle atrophy and to regain muscle strength and range of motion. 

Prognosis

The prognosis for polymyositis varies.  Most people respond fairly well to therapy, but some have a more severe disease that does not respond adequately to therapies and are left with significant disability.  In rare cases individuals with severe and progressive muscle weakness will develop respiratory failure or pneumonia.  Difficulty swallowing may cause weight loss and malnutrition. 

Research

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct research relating to polymyositis in laboratories at the NIH and support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  Currently funded research is exploring patterns of gene expression among the inflammatory myopathies, the role of viral infection as a precursor to the disorders, and the safety and efficacy of various treatment regimens. 

View a list of studies currently seeking patients.

View more studies on this condition.

Read additional information from Medline Plus.

Organizations

American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association

National organization that works to alleviate suffering and the socioeconomic impact of autoimmunity. Dedicated to the eradication of autoimmune diseases through fostering and facilitating collaboration in the areas of education, research, and patient services.

22100 Gratiot Avenue
Eastpointe, MI 48021-2227
Tel: 586-776-3900 800-598-4668
Fax: 586-776-3903

Muscular Dystrophy Association

Voluntary health agency that fosters neuromuscular disease research and provides patient care funded almost entirely by individual private contributors. MDA addresses the muscular dystrophies, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, myasthenia gravis, Friedreich's ataxia, metabolic diseases of muscle, and inflammatory diseases of muscle, for a total of more than 40 neuromuscular diseases.

3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ 85718-3208
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

Myositis Association

Works to improve the lives of those affected by inflammatory myopathies. Seeks out persons with inflammatory myopathies, provides a support network, acts as a resource for patients and the medical community, advocates for patients, and promotes research into the causes and treatment of the disorders.

1737 King Street
Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: 703-299-4850 800-821-7356
Fax: 202-466-8940

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.

55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Dr., Rm. 4C02 MSC 2350
Bethesda, MD 20892-2350
Tel: 301-496-8190 877-22-NIAMS (226-4267)

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