Dr. Kaner began his presentation by stating that more than 40% of patients with dermatomyositis and polymyositis will have symptoms related to the respiratory system at some point in their lives, making this the most common extramuscular organ involvement. These can range from mild to more involved symptoms. One of the ways to handle symptoms more effectively is to seek treatment and testing early. He emphasized the importance of collaboration between the rheumatologist and the pulmonologist.
Symptoms of lung problems in people with myositis include: chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath with exertion.
The following are common diagnostic lung tests performed for people with myositis. These tests are important in determining if the cause(s) of symptoms are related to myositis or another process, such as infection. These tests also offer a baseline for comparison to future tests:
Treatments used for lung involvement are similar to those used to treat myositis: steroids, Rituxan (rituximab), and certain immunosuppressive medications. .
Dr. Kaner noted that how the patient is feeling is the best measure for determining whether treatment is working.
Other ways the doctor can assess response to treatment include:
In addressing risks involved in treatment and follow-up testing, Dr. Kaner explained that there are minimal risks in receiving X-Rays and CT scans because of exposure to radiation (more so with CT scans). Medications, such as steroids and immunosuppressives, can have their own side effects. In making these choices and decisions, it is important to weigh the possible risks of treatment against the possible benefits of treatment. These decisions are best made in collaboration with your doctor and healthcare team.
Visit us online for more information about the Myositis Support Group.
Summary completed by Suzan Fischbein, LCSW
Coordinator, Myositis Support Group at HSS