Juvenile Dermatomyositis: Advances in Pathogenesis, Assessment, and Management

Curr Pediatr Rev. 2021;17(4):273-287. doi: 10.2174/1573396317666210426105045.


Background: Juvenile dermatomyositis is the most common inflammatory myopathy in the pediatric age group and a major cause of mortality and morbidity in individuals with childhood rheumatic diseases. Mounting evidence suggests that early diagnosis and timely aggressive treatment are associated with better outcomes.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to provide readers with an update on the evaluation, diagnosis, and the treatment of juvenile dermatomyositis.

Methods: A PubMed search was performed in Clinical Queries using the key term "juvenile dermatomyositis" in the search engine. The search strategy included meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, clinical trials, observational studies, and reviews. The search was restricted to English literature. The information retrieved from the above search was used in the compilation of the present article.

Results: Juvenile dermatomyositis is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition characterized by systemic capillary vasculopathy that primarily affects the skin and muscles with possible involvement of other organs. In 2017, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) developed diagnostic criteria for juvenile idiopathic inflammatory myopathies and juvenile dermatomyositis. In the absence of muscle biopsies which are infrequently performed in children, scores (in brackets) are assigned to four variables related to muscle weakness, three variables related to skin manifestations, one variable related to other clinical manifestations, and two variables related to laboratory measurements to discriminate idiopathic inflammatory myopathies from non-idiopathic inflammatory myopathies as follows: objective symmetric weakness, usually progressive, of the proximal upper extremities (0.7); objective symmetric weakness, usually progressive, of the proximal lower extremities (0.8); neck flexors relatively weaker than neck extensors (1.9); leg proximal muscles relatively weaker than distal muscles (0.9); heliotrope rash (3.1); Gottron papules (2.1); Gottron sign (3.3); dysphagia or esophageal dysmotility (0.7); the presence of anti-Jo-1 autoantibody (3.9); and elevated serum levels of muscle enzymes (1.3). In the absence of muscle biopsy, a definite diagnosis of idiopathic inflammatory myopathy can be made if the total score is ≥7.5. Patients whose age at onset of symptoms is less than 18 years and who meet the above criteria for idiopathic inflammatory myopathy and have a heliotrope rash, Gottron papules or Gottron sign are deemed to have juvenile dermatomyositis. The mainstay of therapy at the time of diagnosis is a high-dose corticosteroid (oral or intravenous) in combination with methotrexate.

Conclusion: For mild to moderate active muscle disease, early aggressive treatment with high-dose oral prednisone alone or in combination with methotrexate is the cornerstone of management. Pulse intravenous methylprednisolone is often preferred to oral prednisone in more severely affected patients, patients who respond poorly to oral prednisone, and those with gastrointestinal vasculopathy. Other steroid-sparing immunosuppressive agents such as cyclosporine and cyclophosphamide are reserved for patients with contraindications or intolerance to methotrexate and for refractory cases, as the use of these agents is associated with more adverse events. Various biological agents have been used in the treatment of juvenile dermatomyositis. Data on their efficacy are limited, and their use in the treatment of juvenile dermatomyositis is considered investigational.

Keywords: Calcinosis; Gottron papules/ sign; elevated muscle enzymes; heliotrope rash; juvenile idiopathic inflammatory myopathy; myositis-specific antibodies; proximal muscle weakness..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Child
  • Dermatomyositis* / diagnosis
  • Dermatomyositis* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Methotrexate
  • Myositis*
  • Skin
  • United States


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Jo-1 antibody
  • Methotrexate