Polymyositis-dermatomyositis is a rare systemic autoimmune disease which belongs to the class of idiopathic inflammatory myopathies. The disease exhibits high inter-individual variability, but chronic myositis is a common feature. As different manifestations often appear in atypical forms, establishing the precise diagnosis can be rather complicated. The prognosis and the patient's life expectations highly depend on whether the clinician considers this possibility in the diagnostic process or not. The authors present the case of a 50-year-old woman who was referred to hospital with suspected myopathy by her general practitioner. The history of the patient, the overall clinical picture and some marked laboratory abnormalities raised the possibility of polymyositis-dermatomyositis, which was unequivocally confirmed by immunological tests. Drug therapy was started immediately with the administration of high dose corticosteroid (1-2 mg/kg/day methylprednisolone), which was found to be an effective strategy leading to fast and remarkable improvement in the patient's condition. From the first hospital day, the patient also received insulin therapy in order to prevent any potential corticosteroid-induced imbalance in her carbohydrate metabolism. The long-term patient management was provided by an interdisciplinary team the members of which (both clinicians and other health care professionals) worked according to a co-ordinated, complex care plan, and managed not only the "physiological functions" but the different psychological and social problems as well, which are usually associated with the disease. The follow-up period of this polyphase disease process lasted for 4.5 years, during which only two relapses occurred, and muscle strength typically varied between 3 and 4 on a five grade scale with the exception of the relapse periods. Good outcome was attributed to the strict follow-up and individualized therapy/care.
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