5 Things to Know About Morphea
- Morphea is a rare condition that affects the skin.Morphea is a rare condition in which firm, discolored, oval-shaped patches occur on the skin. Over time, these patches, also called lesions or plaques, may change size or go away suddenly. About half of all morphea patients are children, though the condition is not hereditary. Without treatment, the lesions often go away on their own within three to five years, but new lesions usually appear over a person’s lifetime. If the condition goes deeper than skin level, it may spread quickly, so early diagnosis and prompt treatment are important. Find out more morphea facts here.
- 1. Morphea is an autoimmune disorder.Morphea is one type of autoimmune disease, which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells. You can’t catch morphea from someone else, and you can’t pass it on if you have it. Morphea also isn’t an infection or cancerous. Instead, morphea is a form of scleroderma, which is a chronic autoimmune rheumatic disorder that causes hardening of the skin and sometimes deeper tissues under the skin as well. There are two types of scleroderma—localized and systemic scleroderma—and morphea falls under the localized category.
- 2. There are four types of morphea.The four types include circumscribed, generalized, linear, and pansclerotic morphea. Someone with circumscribed morphea may have a few or even just one discolored patch of skin that usually has a red border and thick, pale center. Generalized morphea involves more than four patches on several areas of the body. Linear morphea involves linear lesions on the skin surface and also deeper beneath the skin. Pansclerotic morphea affects deeper skin tissue and muscles, joints or bones. This type of morphea may also restrict movement because it affects the joints.
Adults are more likely to develop circumscribed or generalized morphea, while children are more likely to have linear or pansclerotic morphea.
- 3. Morphea has no known cause and may come with other symptoms.While there’s no known morphea cause, some types of infections have been considered possible triggers for the condition. These infections include measles, hepatitis B, Epstein-Barr, and Lyme disease. Medications, cancer, and radiation have also been associated with morphea. The main symptom of morphea is the development of thick, tight patches of skin caused by excessive collagen buildup. But other symptoms may also be present, including fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and antibody abnormalities, among others.
- 4. Treatments for morphea are available, although not always necessary.Morphea treatments help control or reduce symptoms, but cannot cure the condition. People with mild cases of morphea, with few lesions that aren’t spreading, may choose not to have treatment or treat only with a topical cream or ointment to soften the plaques and reduce itching. In these cases, the lesions usually clear up on their own within five years. However, if plaques are on a person’s face, over joints, or extend deep under the skin or into muscles, it’s advisable to begin some type of treatment to prevent morphea progression. In children, morphea affecting the head or neck can cause permanent eye damage.
- 5. Morphea treatments come with side effects ranging from mild to very serious.Medicated topical creams with vitamin D can help soften and improve the appearance of morphea lesions. This kind of cream may burn, sting or cause a rash. A corticosteroid cream can help reduce inflammation of the skin, but can cause thinning of the skin when used for prolonged periods. Phototherapy, which is ultraviolet light therapy, penetrates deeper into the skin and may be more effective for widespread or more severe cases of morphea. Immunosuppressants are typically reserved for severe or widespread morphea because some come with more serious, even potentially life-threatening, side effects.
Morphea Facts | 5 Things to Know About Morphea