AskDefine | Define polymyositis

Dictionary Definition

polymyositis n : myositis characterixed by weakness of limb and neck muscles and much muscle pain and swelling; progression and severity vary among individuals

Extensive Definition

Polymyositis is a type of inflammatory myopathy, related to dermatomyositis and inclusion body myositis. Polymyositis means 'many muscle inflammation'.


Polymyositis tends to become evident in adulthood, presenting with bilateral proximal muscle weakness, often noted in the upper legs due to early fatigue while walking. Sometimes the weakness presents itself by the person being unable to rise from a seated position without help, or inability to raise their arms above their head. The weakness is generally progressive, accompanied by lymphocytic inflammation (mainly cytotoxic T8 lymphocytes).
Polymyositis, like dermatomyositis, strikes females with greater frequency than males. The skin involvement of dermatomyositis is absent in polymyositis.


The cause is unknown, but seems to be related to autoimmune factors, genetics, and perhaps viruses. In rare cases, the cause is known to be infectious, associated with the pathogens that cause Lyme disease, toxoplasmosis, and others.


Diagnosis is fourfold, including elevation of creatine kinase, signs and symptoms, electromyograph (EMG) alteration, and a positive muscle biopsy. Treatment generally involves glucocorticoids, especially prednisone. At present, a number of studies are underway to determine whether patients diagnosed with polymyositis will benefit from newer drugs inhibiting the biologic effects of TNF alpha, such as infliximab.
Sporadic inclusion body myositis (sIBM): IBM is often confused with (misdiagnosed as) polymyositis and polymyositis that does not respond to treatment is likely IBM. sIBM comes on over months to years, polymyositis comes on over weeks to months. It appears that sIBM and polymyositis share some common features, especially the initial sequence of immune system activation, however, polymyositis does not display the subsequent muscle degeneration and protein abnormalities as seen in IBM. As well, polymyositis tends to respond well to treatments, IBM does not. IBM and polymyositis apparently involve different disease mechanisms than are seen in dermatomyositis.


  • Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci AS, Hauser SL, Longo DL, Jameson JL. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. ISBN 0-07-139140-1
polymyositis in German: Polymyositis
polymyositis in Kurdish: Polîmiyozît
polymyositis in Hebrew: פולימיוזיטיס
polymyositis in Portuguese: Polimiosite
polymyositis in Finnish: Polymyosiitti
polymyositis in Turkish: Polimiyozit
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