Polymyositis is a disease of muscle featuring inflammation of the muscle fibers. The cause of the disease is not known. It begins when white blood cells, the immune cells of inflammation, spontaneously invade muscles. The muscles affected are typically those closest to the trunk or torso. This results in weakness that can be severe. Polymyositis is a chronic illness featuring progressive muscle weakness with periods of increased symptoms, called flares or relapses, and minimal or no symptoms, known as remissions.
Polymyositis is slightly more common in females. It affects all age groups, although its onset is most common in middle childhood and in the 20s. Polymyositis occurs throughout the world. Polymyositis can be associated with a characteristic skin rash and is then referred to as "dermatomyositis." Dermatomyositis in children is referred to as juvenile dermatomyositis. "Amyopathic dermatomyositis" is the term used to describe people who have skin changes compatible with dermatomyositis but do not have diseased muscle involvement.