Possible complications of dermatomyositis include:
- 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 food or liquids, including saliva, into your lungs (aspiration), 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.
- 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.
Dermatomyositis may cause other conditions or put you at higher risk of developing them. These conditions include:
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- 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 muscular walls 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 the 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.
- NINDS dermatomyositis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dermatomyositis/dermatomyositis.htm. Accessed March 25, 2014.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 25, 2014.
- Imboden JB, et al. Current Rheumatology Diagnosis & Treatment. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=809. Accessed March 25, 2014.
- Oddis CV, et al. Rituximab in the treatment of refractory adult and juvenile dermatomyositis and adult polymyositis: A randomized, placebo-phase trial. Arthritis and Rheumatology. 2013;65:314.
- Miller ML. Diagnosis and differential diagnosis of dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 25, 2014.
- Miller ML, et al. Malignancy in dermatomyositis and polymyositis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 27, 2014.
- Miller ML, et al. Initial treatment of dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 27, 2014.
- Miller ML, et al. Treatment of recurrent and resistant dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 27, 2014.
- Vleugels RA. Management of refractory cutaneous dermatomyositis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 11, 2014.