Is A Heliotrope Rash A Serious Disorder?

A heliotrope rash most commonly occurs on a person's eyelids, although the rash can occur on other parts of the body as well. The rash is not in itself a disease or a disorder, but is instead a symptom of a particular disease. The rash gets its name from the purple-pink to violet color the eyelids take on when the rash is present. The purple-pink color is often referred to as heliotrope, after a flower with that name that has that color.

Symptomatic Of A Skin And Muscle Disease

A heliotrope rash is one of the symptoms of a skin and muscle disease known as dermatomyositis. Dermatomyositis can affect other organs besides the skin, and muscles lying directly beneath the skin. Like most rashes, the heliotrope rash itself is not considered to be particularly dangerous, but the underlying condition, that which affects the muscles can in some instances give rise to severe problems, as it can affect the joints, lungs, or the heart, although these cases are rather rare.

While the underlying muscular disorder carries with it several symptoms, it is often not properly diagnosed unless or until the heliotrope rash appears. A rash of a different type may appear on the knees elbows, or knuckles. This rash features bumps that are violet to dark red in color, and are known as Gottron’s papules.

Ties To Certain Other Syndromes And Disorders

Dermatomyositis appears to be more common among people who have either had certain other skin disorders or autoimmune system disorders, and the disease sometime appears in combination with one of these other disorders. Sjogren's syndrome, in which the mouth's ability to produce saliva is compromised, has been known to be accompanied at times by dermatomyositis, and the accompanying heliotrope rash. People who have at one time or another been diagnosed as having infectious mononucleosis seem to be at a slightly higher risk of contracting dermatomyositis at some point in their lives. Some studies have indicated that a virus may cause the disorder, but this has never been proven. Other studies have pointed to the body's immune reaction against cancer as a possible trigger.

Polymyositis With A Rash

Just as is the case with all too many disorders or diseases that are suspected to result from an autoimmune system disorder, the exact cause of dermatomyositis is unknown, and consequently there is no known cure. Oral corticosteroids can often be helpful in controlling the symptoms. Treatment is also directed at controlling polymyositis, a disease in which the muscles become inflamed and begin to degenerate. Dermatomyositis is simply a case of polymyositis that is accompanied by a skin inflammation and rash. The skin inflammation and rash rarely, if ever, occurs without muscles being affected, but the muscle disease, polymyositis, can be, and often is present without any signs of either skin inflammation or a rash.

As far as the rash is concerned, it usually fades away with time, although the underlying muscle disease often remains. When a heliotrope rash fades away, it will occasionally leaves in its wake scarring, shriveling of the skin, or brownish pigmentation patches.

Symptoms Of Polymyositis

It was mentioned that the rash rarely if ever occurs by itself, which is to say without polymyositis being present. It would probably be more accurate to state that the rash never occurs by itself. Someone who is experiencing the rash will also experience the other symptoms that are indicative of polymyositis. The symptom that is most noticeable is muscle weakness, particularly in the hips and the shoulders. Roughly a third of those affected may experience some mild aching in the joints, and might experience periods of fatigue as well. Other symptoms, which most often are only detected during diagnosis, often include evidence of changes in muscle tissue, usually confirmed by examining a tissue sample under a microscope, along with increased blood levels of muscle enzymes, another indication of muscle damage.

Those Most At Risk

While the disease can strike anyone, it seems to have a preference for those in the 5 to 15 and 40 to 60 age brackets, and tends to affect women slightly more often than men. While the rash usually disappears, the muscle disease can linger on for months and even years. In some people the muscle disorder become progressively worse, and can even end in death. In others, the disease is often effectively controlled by medication and lifestyle changes, and may go into remission, although there is always the possibility it can return. Children who suffer from dermatomyositis and  polymyositis, or only the latter, have a higher rate of complete recovery than do adults, even though the condition may linger on for several years. Around 75% of adults diagnosed with polymyositis survive at least 5 years, and most of those eventually survive the disease entirely. Those who have had the disease and have seen it go into remission, often need to take medication for a number of years to prevent the possibility of a relapse. There is one silver lining however. This dread disease, rash and all, is very rare.