Localized scleroderma is different from systemic scleroderma, in that it only affects the skin, related tissues, and muscles below the tissues. It can go away on its own; however, serious and disabling cases can also occur. There are two subtypes of this form of scleroderma: morphea and linear. Morphea can be either local or generalized; linear tends to only occur on an arm, leg, or the forehead.
What Is Localized Scleroderma?
Localized scleroderma only affects the skin, related tissues, and the muscles below the tissues. It does not affect the internal organs, and it will never progress to systemic scleroderma. There are two recognized types of localized scleroderma: morphea and linear.
Although localized conditions usually improve or go away on their own over time, the skin changes and damage that occur when the disease is active can be permanent. For some people, localized scleroderma can be serious and disabling.
Subtypes of Localized Scleroderma: Morphea
Morphea comes from a Greek word that means "form" or "structure." The word refers to local patches of scleroderma, which are often early symptoms of the disease.
The first signs of the disease are reddish patches of skin that thicken into firm, oval-shaped areas. The center of each patch becomes ivory-colored with violet borders. These patches sweat very little and have little hair growth. Patches appear most often on the chest, stomach, and back. However, they may appear on the face, arms, and legs.
Morphea can be localized or generalized. Localized morphea limits itself to one or several patches, ranging in size from a half-inch to 12 inches in diameter. The condition sometimes appears on areas treated by radiation therapy.
Some people have both morphea and linear scleroderma, which is referred to as generalized morphea. This occurs when the skin patches become very hard and dark, and spread over larger areas of the body.
Regardless of the type, morphea generally fades away in three to five years. However, people are often left with darkened skin patches and, in rare cases, muscle weakness.