Objective: To obtain data concerning a history of infection occurring in the 3 months before recognition of the typical weakness and rash associated with juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM).
Methods: Parents or caretakers of children within 6 months of JDM diagnosis were interviewed by the registry study nurse concerning their child's symptoms, environment, family background, and illness history. Physician medical records were reviewed, confirming the JDM diagnosis.
Results: Children for which both a parent interview and physician medical records at diagnosis were available (n = 286) were included. Diagnoses were as follows: definite/probable JDM (n = 234, 82%), possible JDM (n = 43, 15%), or rash only (n = 9, 3%). The group was predominantly white (71%) and had a girl:boy ratio of 2:1. Although the mean age at onset was 6.7 years for girls and 7.3 years for boys, 25% of the children were < or =4 years old at disease onset. In the 3 months before onset, 57% of the children had respiratory complaints, 30% had gastrointestinal symptoms, and 63% of children with these symptoms of infection were given antibiotics.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence that JDM affects young children. The symptoms of the typical rash and weakness often follow a history of respiratory or gastrointestinal complaints. These data suggest that the response to an infectious process may be implicated in JDM disease pathogenesis.