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The persistent inflammation that is associated with myositis develops slowly over weeks to months and often years, with progressive weakening of the muscles. Later in the course of the disease development muscle wasting or shortening (contracture) may develop. Myositis can range in severity from mild to debilitating.

The forms of myositis include:

  • Polymyositis (PM) inflames and weakens muscles in many parts of the body, and especially those parts closest to the trunk. With polymyositis, dysphagia (difficulty, discomfort or pain in speaking or swallowing), fatigue, and pain in the muscles are common. PM rarely affects people under the age of 20, with the peak onset between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • Dermatomyositis (DM) affects both the muscle fibers and skin by damaging the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that supply blood to the muscle and skin, resulting in muscle weakness, pain, and fatigue. In addition the affected person develops a distinctive patchy, reddish rash on the eyelids, cheeks, bridge of the nose, back or upper chest, elbows, knees, and knuckles. There may also be hardened, tender bumps (possibly caused by inflammation of fat) under the skin. DM can occur at any age and is more common in females than males.
  • Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) typically begins after age 50, and is characterized by gradual weakening of muscles throughout the body, including the wrists or fingers, development of dysphagia, and atrophy of forearms and/or thigh muscles. Unlike the other types of myositis, IBM occurs more often in men than women, and also does not respond very well to drug therapy.
  • Juvenile myositis (JM) involves muscle weakness, skin rash, and dysphagia in children. A common characteristic of JM is the formation of calcium deposits in the muscle (calcinosis). These deposits are hard and sometimes painful lumps of calcium under the skin that appear on the child's fingers, hands, elbows, and knees. Painful sores may appear if the lumps break through the skin. The child may also suffer from contractures, which is muscle shortening that results in joints staying bent. About half of the children with JM will have pain in their muscles.

Myositis is rare, affecting about 10 in one million people each year. DM and PM affect mostly women in the forties and fifties but men and children can also affect be affected, some at a young age (between the ages of 5 and 15). About 40,000 people in the United States may have this disease, with about 3,000 to 5,000 children affected.

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