CHENNAI: When new diseases take over the Internet, netizens are often met with all kinds of misinformation from WhatsApp groups to the Facebook timeline, you only get to read about the disease. The latest addition to this list is myositis which has had many people Googling after actor Samantha Ruth Prabhu was diagnosed with this condition.
Dr Venkataraman Karthikeyan, consultant neurologist, Gleneagles Global Health City, Perumbakkam, Chennai, explains, “Myositis is an inflammation of the muscle. Our own immune cells bite or eat the muscles. A person suffering from myositis will have a severe pain in the muscles where the immune cells have started to attack and that muscle may also become weak.”
To curb the cobwebs of fake information regarding the illness, here is an expert analysis of the condition with its types, affected regions, symptoms, and treatments.
Types of myositis
General Myositis can be due to infection, most commonly a viral infection. The condition occurs when the immune cells get confused and fight the muscles instead of the virus which has entered your body. If, by chance, they also hit the cardiac muscles, then the patient will experience shortness of breath and cardiac rhythm abnormalities.
Autoimmune myositis occurs due to autoimmune conditions and not due to any infection. In dermatomyositis people will have skin rashes in the neck, face and knuckle joints in the hands. Polymyositis means multiple muscles have been involved and that is due to an autoimmune process. When the attack is on the lungs, they cause a condition called interstitial lung disease which makes it difficult to breathe on a day-to-day basis without oxygen or without any other supports.
A few types of myositis are also associated with cancer or they may be part of a cancer which may be coming later in the patient’s life.
Even though the disease is due to an autoimmune process, one rarer case of myositis, called the statin-induced myopathy, is a condition triggered due to the common drug for cholesterol treatment, atorvastatin.
General Myositis affects the skeletal muscles, the ones which move your arms and legs and the ones which you work out in the gym. Smooth muscles, the ones which are present in the intestine or lungs are not generally affected but can get involved in special cases.
It can also affect your cardiac muscles that may lead to a very drastic and dreaded complication causing a life threatening issue.
The major symptoms are pain and weakness.
Since the proximal or the muscles which act around your shoulders and hip region might be affected, the patient may not be able to walk or climb the stairs or reach an object above their head or lift an object.
Myositis will be an obvious weakness, and the pain may not be as bad as a joint pain or any injury-related pain, but the muscles will become big and bar you from performing anything.
The attack is often symmetrical, it doesn’t happen only on one joint but occurs on both shoulders or both legs.
Complication: In some cases, the immune cells bite away the muscles so much that the muscle breaks down. Those waste products of the muscle breakdown and get stuck in the kidneys which can lead to certain complications like the urine becoming dark brown in colour.
Basic treatment starts with steroid therapy. Since steroids have many side effects, after the initial steroid treatment, steroid-sparing therapy with immunosuppressive drugs is introduced.
In case of inflamed autoimmunity, it is advised to suppress the autoimmunity and then go on with the proper physiotherapy rehab because those muscles need to be trained back.
The condition is not generally visible in kids but in rare cases myositis also affects the children. The symptoms are same.
The condition is not necessarily genetic, and not communicable. Since we can’t predict the condition be alert if the pain in your muscles persists.
The common age group to experience myositis is 40-50 years. A person affected with this condition may not be able to walk due to the pain in the muscles.