Article: Polymyositis Information Page

What is Polymyositis?

Polymyositis is an inflammatory muscle disease that causes varying degrees of decreased muscle power. The disease has a gradual onset and generally begins in the second decade of life. Polymyositis rarely affects persons under the age of 18. The most common symptom is muscle weakness, usually affecting those muscles that are closest to the trunk of the body (proximal). Eventually, patients have difficulty rising from a sitting position, climbing stairs, lifting objects, or reaching overhead. In some cases, distal muscles (those not close to the trunk of the body) may also be affected later in the course of the disease. Trouble with swallowing (dysphagia) may occur. Very rarely, the muscles ache and are tender to touch. The disease may be associated with other collagen vascular, autoimmune or infectious disorders

Is there any treatment?

Treatment for polymyositis generally consists of a steroid drug called prednisone. For patients in whom prednisone is not effective, immunosuppressants such as azathioprine and methotrexate may be prescribed. Intravenous immunoglobulin has also helped difficult cases. Physical therapy is usually recommended to avoid muscle atrophy.

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for polymyositis varies. Response to therapy varies from very good to satisfactory. Some patients have a more severe disease that does not respond adequately to therapies and are left with significant disability. Death is rare but may occur in patients with severe and progressive muscle weakness, dysphagia, malnutrition, pneumonia, or respiratory failure.

What research is being done?

The NINDS conducts and supports a broad range of research on neuromuscular disorders, including studies on polymyositis. The goals of these studies are to conduct therapeutic trials to increase the understanding of the disorders and, ultimately, to find ways to prevent and cure them.

Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.


American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
22100 Gratiot Avenue
East Detroit, MI   48201-2227
Tel: 586-776-3900 800-598-4668
Fax: 586-776-3903

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

Myositis Association
1233 20th Street, NW
Suite 402
Washington, DC   20036
Tel: 202-887-0084 800-821-7356
Fax: 202-466-8940

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 1968
(55 Kenosia Avenue)
Danbury, CT   06813-1968
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)


Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Cache Date: December 16, 2004