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JAMA Dermatology Patient Page
September 2013

Morphea (Localized Scleroderma)

JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(9):1124. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.5079

Morphea is an autoimmune disease that causes sclerosis, or scarlike, changes to the skin.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system, which normally protects us from bacteria, viruses, and fungi, mistakenly attacks a person’s own body. Morphea lesions have 5 main presentations: (1) circumscribed (few circles on the trunk or limbs); (2) generalized (many circles on the trunk and limbs); (3) linear (lines of involvement on the limbs or head); (4) mixed (combination of circumscribed and linear or generalized and linear); and (5) pansclerotic (involvement of all of the skin). Morphea is usually limited to the skin, but it may extend deeper to involve muscle or bone. Morphea may also involve the inside of the mouth, the genitals, and the eyes. Morphea often first occurs in childhood or middle adulthood. Treatment decreases the risk of forming new lesions and the expansion of lesions. There is currently no cure for morphea.