Autoimmune Disease That Causes Rash and Inflammation

Juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) is an autoimmune disease that causes both a rash (dermato) and muscle inflammation (myositis). It is a type of inflammatory myopathy that typically occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 15. It can also occur in adults over the age of 40 and tends to affect females more than males.

Children with autoimmune diseases have their fighter cells attack their own body’s tissues and cells, causing inflammation, tissue damage and higher susceptibility to getting sick with a cold, flu or other illnesses.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of JDM include:

  • Fever of higher than 101Fahrenheit
  • Lack of appetite
  • Little interest in normal activities
  • Muscle weakness, stiffness or soreness
  • Pain during normal activities
  • Problems swallowing
  • Purple-reddish skin rash
  • Purple upper eyelids
  • Rash on face, knuckles, neck, shoulders, upper chest and back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stiff or swollen joints
  • Weight loss

Muscle weakness is a hallmark sign of JDM. It may come on suddenly or occur slowly over weeks or even months. Children will have difficulty climbing stairs, getting up from a seated position or raising their arms over their heads.

To diagnose JDM, our rheumatology team Penn State Health Children’s Hospital will perform a full physical exam, paying close attention to your child’s skin and muscle tone, and also take a detailed medical history for your child. Our team might also order the following diagnostic tests:

  • Biopsy of inflamed muscle
  • Bloodwork
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Urine test

Many children with JDM go into remission within the first two years of their illness. Other children have symptoms longer and require active disease treatment. At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our team will work with your child to make sure they are responding to their medications. Our goal is to have your child return to their active lifestyle – together, we will work hard to make that goal a reality.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Specialized Rheumatology Care Close to Home

The Penn State Health Children’s Hospital rheumatology team sees more than 5,000 pediatric patients each year to diagnose and treat autoimmune disease and musculoskeletal disorders. We are proud to offer specialized pediatric rheumatology care to our patients and their families at multiple convenient locations. We know your child’s health is your top priority – and at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we are committed to helping your child receive exceptional care close to home.

Customized, Compassionate JDM Treatment 

There is no cure for JDM. However, with medication management, many children live active, healthy lives. Our expert team of pediatric rheumatologists will work with your child to determine the best treatment plan to improve muscle strength and function. Treatment options for JDM include a combination of medications, including:

  • Steroids to control inflammation in muscles, joints and skin
  • Methotrexate to modify the disease
  • Hydroxychloroquine to treat the rash

Additional treatment options include intravenous immunoglobin therapy, mycophenolate mofetil or cyclosporine.

Commitment to Research

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital frequently participates in clinical trials to research tomorrow’s tests, treatments and cures for pediatric autoimmune disease and musculoskeletal disorders. For more information on clinical trials at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, please visit StudyFinder.