Morphea is a skin condition that causes patches of reddish skin that thicken into firm, oval-shaped areas. It is a form of scleroderma. Patches most often occur on the abdomen, stomach, and back, and sometimes on the face, arms and legs. Morphea can either be localized (limited to one or several patches) or generalized (spread over larger areas of the body). While it usually affects only the outer layer of the skin, in some cases it also restricts movement of the joints. The underlying cause of morphea is unknown. It may be associated with an abnormal immune response, or be triggered by radiation therapy, repeated trauma to the affected area, or a recent infection. It usually goes away without treatment within 3 to 5 years, but some people are left with darkened areas of skin or muscle weakness (rarely). Treatment may be used to control symptoms until it resolves, and may include phototherapy, prescription vitamin D creams, or corticosteroids.
Last updated: 10/10/2016
What causes morphea?
The underlying cause of morphea is poorly understood. Theories on the cause are often drawn from studies of systemic sclerosis. A variety of factors, including autoimmunity, genetics, and vascular dysfunction may play a role in morphea. Multiple environmental factors (such as radiation, infections, skin trauma, or environmental exposures) also have been proposed as contributors to the development of morphea.
Last updated: 10/13/2016
Can a mother pass morphea on to her child if it is active during the pregnancy?
Although scientists don't know exactly what causes morphea, they are certain that people cannot catch it from or transmit it to others. In addition, although genes seem to put certain people at risk for morphea (and other forms of scleroderma) and play a role in its course, the disease is not passed from parent to child like some genetic diseases.
Last updated: 1/28/2010
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