What is Myositis?

Myositis is a connective tissue and autoimmune disease. The body’s own immune system makes proteins called “antibodies” for protection against viruses, bacteria and other foreign bodies (antigens).
In myositis the immune system is unable to tell the difference between antigens and its own cells and tissues. The immune system makes “auto-antibodies” directed against its own cells and tissues. The build up of these “auto-antibodies” in the tissues causes inflammation, pain and muscle damage. The cause of myositis is still unknown.

Types Of Myositis

  • Polymyositis
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Inclusion Body Myositis
  • Juvenile Dermatomyositis
  • Mixed Connective Tissue

These illnesses are thankfully very rare. They affect the muscles and connective tissues of the body. The main symptom of these diseases is muscular weakness which may be progressive and can be severely disabling, affecting in the majority of cases the whole body. The disease can be accompanied by depression and a general feeling of misery. It can affect people of any age and sex. The disease is not catching and there is no way to predict who will be affected by it. It can be suppressed by drugs which can have side effects and in turn can promote worrying problems of their own. As yet there is no cure for the disease. Most sufferers need constant physiotherapy to prevent muscle shrinkage and to keep them mobile. Some, fortunately do get better but for the majority it is a case of living and coping with the disease and trying to live a near normal life as possible. Some less fortunate do need a wheelchair from time to time while the disease is at its height.

Myositis:A Guide In Understanding The Diseases

What is Myositis?

Polmyositis and Dermatomyositis are related illnesses affecting muscle and connective tissues of the body. Joints may also occasionally be involved. A rarer form of Polymyositis is known as Localised Nodular Myositis. A more serious and rare form of myositis is Inclusion Body Myositis.

In Polymyositis, the main problems are weakness and inflammation of the muscles. (‘Poly’ means many, ‘myo’ means muscle, ‘itis, means inflammation.) In Dermatomyositis, the problems are similar to Polymyositis but also include skin rashes. (‘Derma’ means skin.)
Localised Nodular Myositis is a condition appearing in single muscle or muscle groups where painful tender lumps can be felt.

Inclusion Body Myositis is usually slowly progressive and very difficult to treat.

In most of these conditions, the voluntary muscles undergo degenerative changes due to inflammation. The main symptoms of these diseases is muscular weakness, which may be progressive and can be severely disabling. Initially it is not usually painful in children and noticeable weakness may develop gradually over several months.


What causes Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis?

Because Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis affects individuals differently , it also probably’ has many causes. Some doctors think they may be an autoimmune disease. ‘this means that it is a result of a defect in the immune system. which is the body’s natural defence against disease. in healthy people. The immune system
produces substances to attack disease agents Such as bacteria and viruses. In people with an autoimmune disease, there is a defect in the immune system that causes it to turn against the body’s own tissues.

Other doctors feel it may’ be started by a virus or the combination of a viral infection and defective immume system.


What are the Early Symptoms of these Diseases?

The diseases can vary greatly from patient to patient. and few cases are identical and follow the same pattern. Some people may have had the disease for months or even years before it is noticed. However, the majority find within weeks they have
developed muscular weakness. ‘this is sometimes accompanied by pain and tenderness especially in adults.The large muscles about the hips and shoulders are usually the first to be affecte.The weakness results in difficulty in walking, lifting arms and getting up from the sitting and lying down positions. ‘there may even be some trouble in swollowing and the voice may become nasal in quality. Other muscles sometimes affected are those in the neck making it difficult to raise the head when lying down. Depression and a general feeling of misery particularly in children, is very noticeable and can be an indication of the disease before any sign of muscle weakness.


Who gets Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis
and at what age does it appear?

The diseases can affect people of any age and sex. It affects about twice as many women as men in adult life. In children the ratio is equal. Although the condition affects adults and children, the child-hood form possibly has different underlying causes and behaves very differently from the adult form. Children can be expected to make a complete recovery. However, it is a rare disease in any of its forms.


Is there any Research into the Disease?

Research directed with an emphasis on all forms of myositis is very limited. However, the Support Group is currently funding a clinical trial at King’s College Hospital in London.

The Support Group has in the past helped with funding research in various ways. We have provided much needed equipment, paid the living expenses of foreign doctors, the part time salary of a physiotherapist and covered the total cost of a research post for 2 years.

The funding of the current clinical trial covers the cost of the research post for one day a week for 5 years and also the cost of a research nurse for 4 days a week for 3 years.

Information Courtesy of:
Dermatomyositis and Polymyosotis Support Group

The Group’s Aims :

  • To provides support to sufferers and their families
  • To help give them a better understanding of their illness.
  • To relieve the isolation felt by individuals when a rare illness is diagnosed
  • To guide sufferers in the right direction for treatment
  • To raise awareness of the conditions
  • To raise funds to promote research

146 Newtown Road
Woolston
Southhampton
SO19 9HR

Tel : 02380 449708
Fax : 02380 396402
Email info@myositis.org.uk

For Further information visit the website
www.myositis.org.uk

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