To compare 2 groups of children with juvenile dermatomyositis (DM), those with onset of symptoms before their fifth birthday versus those whose disease begins either on or after their fifth birthday, and to assess whether age at onset is associated with differences in disease presentation, treatments received, or outcomes 2 years after diagnosis.


Data were analyzed on children recruited to a UK juvenile DM cohort study with a diagnosis of probable or definite juvenile DM and less than 12 months between diagnosis and recruitment.


Fifty-five (35%) of 157 children had onset of symptoms before their fifth birthday. At diagnosis, cutaneous ulceration was found in 32.7% of the younger group versus 11.8% of the older group (P = 0.003). Facial or body swelling was reported more often in the younger group, whereas headaches, alopecia, and Raynaud's phenomenon were all more frequently reported in the older group. At followup 2 years later, there were no important differences in outcomes between the groups. More than 90% of patients in both groups received both methotrexate and steroids. Twenty-three percent of both groups remained on steroids 2 years after diagnosis.


Our study showed that children with juvenile DM with disease onset at age <5 years are more likely to present with ulcerative skin disease and edema. There were no clinically significant differences in outcomes between the 2 groups.