How Do Stem Cells Help with Dermatomyositis?
Dermatomyositis is a chronic inflammatory condition. It affects the skin and muscles, and it causes progressive weakness of the muscles and a rash that can be found on most parts of the body.
The cause of the disease is not known, though there are associated factors. At the same time, there is no known cure for dermatomyositis, with treatment only aiming to reduce the severity of the symptoms that patients experience.
Diseases like this can be very difficult to live with, which leads many patients to look for alternative methods. This article will answer the question of what is dermatomyositis, as well as discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of this condition, including stem cell therapy.
Dermatomyositis: what are the causes?
This rare condition is seen in just about 10 out of every million people. It can occur at any age, though it is mostly seen in those between the ages of 40 and 60. However, when children have this disease, it is called juvenile dermatomyositis and it is usually seen between 5 and 15 years of age. The risk of having dermatomyositis is twice as high in women as it is in men.
When it comes to what causes juvenile dermatomyositis or the adult variant, the cause is still unknown. However, researchers believe that the condition may be related to autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s own immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body.
Its cases also have been linked to cancer, particularly ovarian, breast, and lung cancers; as well as viral infections.
What are the symptoms?
Dermatomyositis symptoms are primarily focused on the muscles and skin, though there are a few other symptoms seen in other parts of the body.
The major sign of the disease associated with the muscles is weakness. This weakness gets worse as the disease goes on, and it tends to affect the muscles which are closest to the torso. As a result, patients with dermatomyositis will experience weakness in their hips and thighs, shoulders and upper arms, and neck. This affects how easily they are able to lift objects, get up from a seat, or climb stairs.
The most prominent skin sign is the rash that people with the condition have. This is called a heliotrope rash, due to the purplish color that it usually has, though it can also be reddish.
This rash is usually seen in certain parts of the body, which include the face, eyelids, elbows, knees, knuckles, upper chest, and back.
The rash can also manifest as scaly bumps on bony parts of the body like the finger joints, knees, elbows, and feet, and these are called Gottron papules. These areas are usually itchy and painful and tend to be the first symptom seen in dermatomyositis.
There are some signs unrelated to the skin or muscles that people with dermatomyositis may also have to deal with. These include:
- Swelling in the joints
- Difficulty breathing
- Vocal changes
- Frequent cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unintentional weight loss
- Food or drinks aspiration
- Black stool
How do medical professionals identify dermatomyositis?
Healthcare professionals usually use a set of criteria to determine whether a patient has this condition. It involves a combination of symptoms and lab tests. When the following are able to be seen in a patient with suspected dermatomyositis, it can be properly diagnosed:
- Heliotrope rash or Gottron papules.
- Weakness of the proximal muscles.
- Finding elevated levels of muscle enzymes in the blood. These include creatinine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, and aldolase.
- Characteristic signs during electromyography, which is a test of the electrical signals in the muscles.
- Finding white blood cells, abnormal, and dying cells when looking at a sample of muscle tissue under the microscope.
How is this condition typically treated?
There is no known cure for this autoimmune condition. Dermatomyositis treatment focuses on treating the symptoms that patients have, particularly their muscle weakness and skin changes.
To start with, there are several medications that can be used to improve the condition:
- Corticosteroids like prednisone can help suppress the immune system, and in turn, the symptoms. However, other immunosuppressant medications can be given, such as methotrexate.
- In some cases, patients may be given antibodies called immunoglobulins, which can bind the antibodies which are causing damage to the patient’s tissues. These are given through an infusion into the veins.
- Antimalarial medicines like hydroxychloroquine have also been shown to help with the rash that patients have.
In addition, physical therapy can serve as a means to improve muscle strength when weakness begins to affect daily living.
Dermatomyositis and stem cell treatment: what to expect?
The possibility of using stem cells to treat dermatomyositis is something that is frequently considered by both patients and medical professionals. This is understandable, as symptomatic treatment is still the only way to manage the condition.
There have been several studies done to observe the efficacy of stem cells in managing the disease. Most of this research shows very positive results in relieving pain and inflammation and increasing muscle power. For instance, in juvenile dermatomyositis, stem cell treatment demonstrated significant improvement and a long period of disease remission (doi.org/10.3109/03009740903096622). Another study showed an absence of relapse in as many as 144 months after stem cell therapy (doi.org/10.1186/s12969-018-0284-3).
What kind of improvements can be achieved in stem cell therapy for dermatomyositis?
Stem cell treatment is not guaranteed to help all patients with the disease, as it is not a cure-all. However, many of those receiving dermatomyositis treatment with stem cells notice some improvement, with many seeing great changes. These include a reduction in the muscle enzymes in their blood tests, healing of damaged skin tissues, and an improvement in their motor functions. Many patients reach a point of sustained remission and may be able to stop their medication.
Where to find dermatomyositis treatment using stem cells?
For people suffering from dermatomyositis who are looking to try out stem cell treatment to improve their condition, there are numerous regenerative medicine centers worldwide that offer this approach.
However, it is important to select a clinic that has experienced healthcare professionals and an established track record of treating the disease. This will ensure the best safety and efficacy for you. While seeking, you can rely upon the clinic’s licences and the patient’s reviews.
For a condition like dermatomyositis which has no cure and impacts your daily life severely, isn’t it worth trying a cell-based treatment that can help you achieve complete remission?