Morphea – What it is, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments that many are unaware of. Additionally, Morphea is a skin condition that involves a patch or patches of discolored or hardened skin on the face, neck , hands , torso, or feet. The condition is rare and thought to affect less than 3 in 100,000 people. Morphea predominantly affects your skin. It does not involve your internal organs. In most cases, it resolves on its own, but you may experience a relapse.
More severe forms can lead to cosmetic deformities, and occasionally affect muscle, joints , or bone. Morphea is a rare skin condition that causes painful, discolored patches on your skin.
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Typically, skin changes appear on the abdomen , chest, or back. But they can also appear on your face, arms or legs. Morphea tends to only affect the outermost layers of your skin. But some forms of the condition also restrict movement in the joints .
Morphea usually goes away on its own over time, although recurrences are common. Meanwhile, medications and therapies are available to help treat skin discoloration and other effects.
Causes of Morphea: The exact cause of Morphea is not yet known. It is thought to be an immune disorder, meaning that the immune system attacks the skin. Collagen-producing cells can become overactive and produce more collagen.
Collagen is a protein normally found in the skin that helps provide structural support. With too much collagen, the skin becomes tough. Morphea can be triggered by radiation therapy, repeated trauma to the skin, environmental exposure, or an infection . Morphea is not contagious, so you cannot get it from or spread it by touching someone.
The causes of Morphea are unknown. It may be due in part to an unusual immune system reaction. Or it can be triggered by:
- radiation therapy
- Repeated trauma to the affected area
- A recent infection , such as measles or chickenpox
- The condition is not contagious.
Symptoms of Morphea: Signs and symptoms of Morphea vary depending on the type and stage of the condition. They include:
- Reddish or purplish oval patches, often on the abdomen , chest, or back
- Patches that gradually develop a lighter or whitish center
- Linear spots, 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 usually lasts for several years and then goes away on its own. But it usually leaves some patches of darkened or discolored skin.
When to see a doctor: If you notice reddened patches of hardened or thickened skin, see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the development of new patches and allow your doctor to identify and treat complications before they get worse.
Diagnoses of Morphea: If you have unexplained or discolored patches of skin, your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin problems) or a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the joints , bones, and muscles).
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions about your symptoms, such as when you started noticing changes in your skin, if you did anything to treat yourself, and if you have any other symptoms. They will ask for a family health history and any recent illnesses you have had and any medications you are taking.
There is no test to diagnose Morphea . Your doctor will examine your skin, and while it’s not usually necessary, it may take a small sample to be analyzed by a lab. This is called a skin biopsy.
They may also order some tests to help distinguish Morphea from something called systemic scleroderma. This type of scleroderma is similar to Morphea at first. But it can affect internal organs and requires more aggressive treatment.
Morphea Treatments : Morphea usually disappears without treatment, although it may leave scars or areas of skin discoloration. Until your condition disappears, you may want to continue treatment that helps control your signs and symptoms.
Treatment options for Morphea include:
- Light therapy: A special treatment that uses ultraviolet light (phototherapy) can improve the appearance of your skin, especially when used soon after skin changes appear.
- Drugs that fight inflammation: Your doctor may prescribe an immunosuppressive drug, such as oral methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). This can be used in combination with corticosteroid pills for the first few months. Each of these medications has potentially serious side effects.
- A form of vitamin D: Prescription calcipotriene cream is a synthetic form of vitamin D. It can help to soften skin blemishes caused by Morphea . Skin usually starts to improve during the first few months of treatment. Possible side effects include burning, stinging and a rash.
- Physical therapy: This type of treatment uses exercise to prevent joint deformity and maintain movement.
In more severe cases of morphea , including injuries that cause deformity or joint problems, more aggressive therapy may be needed to help fight inflammation and prevent deformities, including:
Children with Morphea in their head and neck should see an ophthalmologist, a specialist in eye problems, for regular eye exams.