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Pronounced: Polly-my-oh-sigh-tis


Polymyositis is a rare disease of the muscles. It usually affects the muscles closest to the trunk of the body. However, it may affect muscles anywhere in the body.

Front Muscles of Trunk

Trunk Core Muscles
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

Polymyositis may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that trigger an abnormal immune response.

Risk Factors    TOP

Polymyositis is more common in women and in people aged 31-60 years old. People with a family history of systemic lupus erythematosus are also at an increased risk.

Symptoms    TOP

Polymyositis causes muscles become inflamed or swollen. Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle weakness that usually occurs in the hips, neck, and shoulders
  • Muscle pain that increases over time
  • Fatigue
  • Great effort needed to climb stairs
  • Trouble rising from a chair
  • Difficulty reaching overhead
  • Chronic dry cough
  • Difficulty swallowing

Patients with polymyositis may have symptoms of:

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

Your muscle activity may be measured. This can be done with an electromyogram (EMG).

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with an MRI scan.

Treatment    TOP

The disease is progressive and starts slowly. If left untreated, the muscles gradually become weaker. The pain in the muscles also increases. While there is no cure, treatment can improve your muscle strength and function. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include:


Medications to treat polymyositis may include:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Other immunosuppressants

IV immunoglobulin therapy is another treatment option. It involves using an IV needle to inject extra immunoglobins (special proteins) into the body. This process may help the immune system function better and reduce inflammation.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may recommend that you work with a physical therapist to prevent permanent muscle damage. Exercise may include:

  • A regular stretching routine for weakened arms and legs
  • Light strengthening as the pain lessens and function returns

Dietary Changes    TOP

Polymyositis can lead to problems with chewing and swallowing. By working with a registered dietitian, you can learn ways to adjust to these changes and get the nutrition that you need.

Speech Therapy    TOP

Polymyositis may also cause speech problems. A speech therapist can assess your condition and create a program for you.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines to prevent polymyositis.


American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
The Myositis Association


The Arthritis Society


Diagnosis. The Myositis Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Gordon PA, Winer JB, Hoogendijk JE, Choy EH. Immunosuppressant and immunomodulatory treatment for dermatomyositis and polymyositis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;8:CD003643.
Idiopathic inflammatory myopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 17, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Myositis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2007. Accessed May 11, 2016.
NINDS polymyositis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 27, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Treatment. Myositis Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Types of myositis. Myositis Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated January 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
11/9/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed...: Kuo CF, Grainge MJ, Valdes AM, et al. Familial aggregation of systemic lupus erythematosus and coaggregation of autoimmune diseases in affected families. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(9):1518-1526.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2016

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