Possible complications of dermatomyositis include:

Muscle weakness complications

Dermatomyositis muscle weakness can lead to:

  • Difficulty swallowing. If the muscles in your esophagus are affected, you may have problems swallowing (dysphagia), which in turn may cause weight loss and malnutrition.
  • Aspiration pneumonia. Difficulty swallowing may also cause you to breathe (aspirate) food or liquids, including saliva, into your lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.
  • Breathing problems. If your chest muscles are affected by the disease, you may experience breathing problems, such as shortness of breath.
  • Gastrointestinal problems. Ulcers may form and bleeding can occur.

Skin symptom complications

Problems associated with dermatomyositis that can affect your skin include:

  • Calcium deposits. Deposits of calcium can occur in your muscles, skin and connective tissues (calcinosis) as the disease progresses. These deposits develop earlier and are more common in children with dermatomyositis.
  • Infections. Dermatomyositis puts you at increased risk of infections, particularly of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

Associated conditions

Dermatomyositis may cause other conditions, or put you at higher risk of developing them. These conditions include:

  • Raynaud's phenomenon. This is a condition in which your fingers, toes, cheeks, nose and ears turn pale when exposed to cold temperatures.
  • Other connective tissue diseases. Other conditions, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome, can occur in combination with dermatomyositis.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Dermatomyositis may cause the muscle of your heart to become inflamed (myocarditis). In a small number of people who have dermatomyositis, congestive heart failure and heart arrhythmias may develop.
  • Lung disease. A condition called interstitial lung disease may occur with dermatomyositis. Interstitial lung disease refers to a group of disorders that cause scarring (fibrosis) of lung tissue, making lungs stiff and inelastic. Signs and symptoms include a dry cough and shortness of breath.
  • Cancer. Dermatomyositis in adults has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing cancer, particularly of the cervix, lungs, pancreas, breasts, ovaries and gastrointestinal tract. Risk of cancer increases with age, although it appears to level off three years or so after a diagnosis of dermatomyositis. The diagnosis of cancer may also happen before you develop dermatomyositis.

Concerns during pregnancy

Pregnancy may worsen signs and symptoms in women with active disease. Active dermatomyositis can also increase the risk of premature birth or stillbirth. If the disease is in remission, the risk isn't as great.

Jul. 07, 2011