Skip secondary menu

NINDS Polymyositis Information Page


Table of Contents (click to jump to sections)


Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker


What is 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.

Is there any 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. 

What is the 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. 

What research is being done?

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. 

NIH Patient Recruitment for Polymyositis Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
22100 Gratiot Avenue
Eastpointe, MI   48021-2227
aarda@aarda.org
http://www.aarda.org
Tel: 586-776-3900 800-598-4668
Fax: 586-776-3903

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ   85718-3208
mda@mdausa.org
http://www.mda.org
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

Myositis Association
1737 King Street
Suite 600
Alexandria, VA   22314
tma@myositis.org
http://www.myositis.org
Tel: 703-299-4850 800-821-7356
Fax: 202-466-8940

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org
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
NIAMSinfo@mail.nih.gov
http://www.niams.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-8190 877-22-NIAMS (226-4267)

 
Related NINDS Publications and Information


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated April 16, 2014