Scleroderma - Morphea

Morphea is the name given to localised patches of hardened skin that are smooth and shiny. Usually they appear on the trunk, but they can affect any part of the body. They are painless and there are normally no other problems or symptoms.

Morphea usually subsides on its own over time, though recurrences are common. In the meantime, medications and therapies are available to help treat the skin dis-coloration and other effects.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of morphea vary, depending on the type and stage of the condition. They include:

  • Reddish or purplish oval patches of skin, often on the abdomen, chest or back
  • Patches that gradually develop a lighter or whitish center
  • Linear patches, especially when on the arms or legs
  • A gradual change in the affected skin, which becomes hard, thickened, dry and shiny
  • Loss of hair and sweat glands in the affected area over time

Morphea usually affects only the skin and underlying tissue and, rarely, bone. The condition generally lasts several years and then disappears on its own. But it usually leaves some patches of darkened or discolored skin.

When to see a doctor

If you notice reddish patches of hardening or thickening skin, see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment may help slow the development of new patches and allow your doctor to identify and treat complications before they worsen.

Causes

The causes of morphea are unknown. It may be due in part to an unusual reaction of the immune system. Or it may be triggered by:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Repeated trauma to the affected area
  • A recent infection, such as measles or chickenpox

The condition isn't contagious.

Certain factors may affect your risk of developing morphea, including:

Your sex and age. Females are more likely to develop morphea than are males. The condition can affect people at any age. It usually appears between the ages of 2 and 14 or in the mid-40s. As well as your race. Morphea is more prevalent among Caucasians.

Complications

Morphea can cause a number of complications, including:

  • Self-esteem issues. Morphea can have a negative effect on your self-esteem and body image, particularly if discolored patches of skin appear on your arms, legs or face.
  • Movement problems. Morphea that affects the arms or legs can impair joint mobility.
  • Widespread areas of hardened, discolored skin. Numerous new patches of hard, discolored skin may seem to join together, a condition known as generalized morphea.
  • Eye damage. Children with head and neck morphea may experience unnoticeable, permanent eye damage.

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