Possible complications of polymyositis 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 or, in severe cases, respiratory failure.
  • Calcium deposits. Late in the disease, particularly if you've had the disease for a long time, deposits of calcium can occur in your muscles, skin and connective tissues (calcinosis).

Associated conditions

Although these are not complications, polymyositis is often associated with other conditions that may cause further complications of their own, or in combination with polymyositis symptoms. Associated conditions include:

  • Raynaud's phenomenon. This is a condition in which your fingers, toes, cheeks, nose and ears initially 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 polymyositis.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Polymyositis may cause the muscle of your heart to become inflamed (myocarditis). In a small number of people who have polymyositis, congestive heart failure and heart arrhythmias may develop.
  • Lung disease. A condition called interstitial lung disease may occur with polymyositis. 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.

Concerns during pregnancy

Pregnancy may worsen signs and symptoms in women whose disease is active. Active polymyositis 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