Dermatomyositis (DM)

Living With

Dear Friends:

The first time I heard the word "dermatomyositis," I had to have it repeated and then spelled out for me.

Robin Chavez
Photo of Robin Chavez by Christian Steiner

Read more ...

Clinical Trials

About clinical trials

A clinical trial is a test in humans of an experimental medication or therapy. Clinical trials are experiments, not treatments, and participation requires careful consideration.

Although it's possible to benefit from participating in a clinical trial, it's also possible that no benefit — or even harm — may occur. Keep your MDA clinic doctor informed about any clinical trial participation. (Note that MDA has no ability to influence who is chosen to participate in a clinical trial.)


Researchers supported by MDA are studying the underlying mechanisms that cause inflammatory myopathies, such as dermatomyositis (DM).

Several MDA projects are centered around understanding precisely what triggers the immune system to mistakenly attack muscle tissue, with the ultimate goal of stopping this type of attack.

Some MDA-funded researchers are developing cellular models of muscle injury in DM and are screening these models to learn the basic mechanisms by which muscle injury occurs in this disease.

Medical Management

Dermatomysitis (DM) is a highly treatable disease. Some people, especially children, recover completely, while others experience greatly diminished symptoms for long periods of time. Several years of treatment to suppress the immune system may be necessary to achieve these results.

Those who don’t recover completely may need to continue on at least a low dose of medication to control the autoimmune attack of DM throughout their lives.


What causes dermatomyositis (DM)?

In the overwhelming majority of cases, there’s no clear cause for the development of myositis.

Viruses might be a trigger for autoimmune myositis. People with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, can develop a myositis, as can people with a virus called HTLV-1. Some myositis cases have followed infection with the Coxsackie B virus.


As with other muscle diseases, a doctor diagnoses dermatomyositis (DM) by considering an individual’s history, family medical history and the results of a careful physical examination. This may be followed by some lab tests, perhaps of the electrical activity inside the muscles, and usually a muscle biopsy.

Signs and Symptoms

What happens to someone with dermatomyositis?

A reddish or purplish rash and scaly, rough skin are typical in DM.


What is dermatomyositis (DM)?

Muscles affected by dermatomyositis (frontal view) Muscles affected by dermatomyositis (back view)



MDA leads the search for treatments and therapies for dermatomyositis (DM). The Association also provides comprehensive supports and expert clinical care for those living with DM.

In this section, you’ll find up-to-date information about DM, as well as many helpful resources. This information has been compiled with input from researchers, physicians and people affected by the disease.