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Initial treatment of dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults

Marc L Miller, MD
Section Editors
Ira N Targoff, MD
Jeremy M Shefner, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Monica Ramirez Curtis, MD, MPH


Dermatomyositis (DM) and polymyositis (PM) are classified as idiopathic inflammatory myopathies. Defining the optimal treatment regimens for these disorders has been difficult because of the rarity of these disorders, their highly complex clinical phenotypes, and the limited number of randomized, double-blind clinical trials [1-3].

In addition, understanding of the inflammatory myopathies has evolved over the years, but disease classification schemes have not kept pace. Newer classifications, based upon histologic and serologic distinctions between the different disorders, may help define the natural history of these diseases better, may assist in the design of well-conceived randomized clinical trials, and may lead to the development of rational therapies [4-6].

The initial therapy of DM and PM will be reviewed here. The treatment of recurrent or resistant disease, the clinical manifestations and approach to diagnosis of these disorders in adults, the management of cutaneous manifestations of dermatomyositis, and issues related to DM and PM in children are discussed separately. (See "Treatment of recurrent and resistant dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults" and "Clinical manifestations of dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults" and "Initial management of cutaneous dermatomyositis in adults" and "Management of refractory cutaneous dermatomyositis in adults" and "Juvenile dermatomyositis and polymyositis: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, and clinical manifestations" and "Juvenile dermatomyositis and polymyositis: Treatment, complications, and prognosis".)


The severity of disease in dermatomyositis (DM) and polymyositis (PM) is highly variable, ranging from mild weakness that responds readily to treatment to muscle dysfunction associated with a relentless downhill course that is unresponsive to all treatment modalities. Some clinical and laboratory features are associated with a poorer prognosis.

Clinical predictors — Most studies that have investigated prognosis in the inflammatory myopathies did not distinguish between DM and PM. Many also did not recognize inclusion body myositis, a common mimic of PM that is associated with a worse prognosis but was not defined until the 1980s. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of inclusion body myositis".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 13, 2017.
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