Current diagnosis and treatment of polymyositis and dermatomyositis

Mod Rheumatol. 2018 Nov;28(6):913-921. doi: 10.1080/14397595.2018.1467257. Epub 2018 May 9.


Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIMs) are heterogeneous disorders that affect the skeletal muscles. Polymyositis, dermatomyositis, and inclusion body myositis are major IIM subsets. Immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy became recognized as a potentially new IIM subset. Since the new classification criteria published by the International Myositis Classification Criteria Project have higher sensitivity and specificity for IIM classification and subclassification than the previous criteria, they should help precise diagnosis. It should be noted that several tests available in current clinical practice, such as electromyography, magnetic resonance imaging, and other myositis-specific autoantibodies than anti-Jo-1 antibodies, were not included in the new criteria. As for treatment, glucocorticoids are used empirically as the first-line treatment despite their various adverse effects. Concomitant treatment with steroid-sparing immunosuppressive agents, including methotrexate, azathioprine, calcineurin inhibitors, mycophenolate mofetil, and cyclophosphamide, reduces successfully initial glucocorticoid doses for the remission induction, the relapse risk during glucocorticoid tapering, and adverse effects of glucocorticoids. Treatment with biologics, including rituximab and abatacept, seems promising in some IIM patients. Multi-target treatment with glucocorticoids and several steroid-sparing immunosuppressive agents is effective in refractory IIM patients. Considering proven steroid-sparing efficacy and tolerability of multi-target treatment in patients with other autoimmune diseases, it should be a good therapeutic option for IIMs.

Keywords: Polymyositis; classification criteria; dermatomyositis; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dermatomyositis / diagnosis*
  • Dermatomyositis / drug therapy
  • Dermatomyositis / etiology
  • Humans
  • Polymyositis / diagnosis*
  • Polymyositis / drug therapy
  • Polymyositis / etiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents