Questionnaires were sent to 1290 hospitals in Japan asking for data on patients with juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) diagnosed between June 1984 and May 1994. Of the 204 patients identified by these questionnaires, 102 met the criteria for JDM. JDM is categorized into three subtypes: Banker-type JDM, Brunsting-type and fulminant-type; patients with the latter exhibit markedly elevated serum levels of creatinine phosphokinase (> 10,000 U/mL) and appear to be at risk of renal failure. Cutaneous manifestations were present in 98% of patients and preceded the appearance of other symptoms. This tendency is one of the reasons for the difficulty in some cases in diagnosing the onset of JDM. Better criteria for early treatment of JDM are needed. The results of the present study suggest that itching and calcinosis are factors that indicate a poor prognosis in patients with JDM. Muscle enzyme levels do not always reflect disease activity, suggesting that methods other than measurement of muscle enzymes, such as measurement of the levels of neoprerin and von Willebrand factor antigen, as well as magnetic resonance imaging should be used to be evaluate disease severity. Patients with Brunsting-type JDM who exhibit dysphagia and antinuclear antibody positivity and patients with Banker-type JDM should be treated aggressively. Pulse therapy should be selected as the initial therapy in patients with fulminant-type JDM.