Juvenile dermatomyositis: recognition and treatment.
Juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) is a multisystem disease characterized by acute and chronic lymphocytic inflammation of the skeletal muscle and skin. The disease is marked early in its course by the presence of a vasculopathy or vasculitis, and later by the development of calcinosis. Research has focused on the epidemiology, etiology, and pathogenesis of the disease with, until more recently, limited therapeutic interventions. This article highlights treatment regimens, both traditional and more recent interventions. Traditional treatment for JDM includes high dose corticosteroid treatment with additional agents used in resistant disease or children with unwarranted adverse effects. Traditional therapy begins with daily oral corticosteroids, with intravenous corticosteroids utilized in severe disease; however, recent data suggests that short-term use of intravenous corticosteroids will allow a short-term improvement in strength, with no long-term change in outcome. More recent investigations suggest that early intervention with additional immunomodulatory agents will allow for a faster recovery, with less medication and disease sequelae. Use of methotrexate as an agent early in the disease course is becoming common place. Methotrexate, in conjunction with oral corticosteroids, allows a rapid improvement in symptoms, and allows for a more rapid reduction in corticosteroid dose. Methotrexate is considered as a steroid sparing agent, whether oral or intravenous corticosteroids are used. Additional immunomodulatory agents include the use of cyclosporine with or without methotrexate. Intravenous immunoglobulin has been reported to have benefit in resistant disease. There are exciting new agents which have great potential in treating JDM. Many of these agents are termed biologics and are being tested in adult myositis and juvenile arthritis. These include tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha inhibitors, such as a chimeric monoclonal antibody to TNF-alpha, and a recombinant soluble human TNF receptor (p75)-Fc fusion protein. Many other new biological agents are also being tested in myositis.
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