Morfea: a patchy skin condition

Morfea is a skin condition characterized by hard-feeling and blotchy skin. There is a breakdown of the connective tissue, causing the skin to feel stiff and hard in certain places of the body. An inflammatory reaction occurs, causing spots to form. It is an autoimmune disease, which causes the body’s own immune system to produce an inflammatory response. What exactly does morphea mean and can it be treated?

What morphea means

Morfea is an inflammation of the skin in which hardenings occur in the skin, often with slightly dark colored spots with a white colored center. Eventually it becomes scar tissue. Another name for this condition is localized scleroderma. The disease is only present in the skin and is different from systemic scleroderma (= internal scleroderma), which does affect internal organs. Morfea is a rare skin condition and occurs approximately three times more often in women than in men.

Forms of morphea

Morfea is characterized by inflammation and scarring of the skin. It can occur in both children and adults. In addition to the common morphea, there are also a few rarer forms of this disease:

  1. Linear morphea: this is a linear morphea, which is often located on one arm or leg. This form is most common in children.
  2. Saber cut morphea: this is also called morphea en coup de sabre. It is a rare form of morphea and is usually located on the forehead. It produces a linear and deep scar in the skin.


The emergence

What causes morphea is unknown. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system sees its own cells as foreign and starts to fight them. The connective tissue that normally keeps the skin elastic and supple is broken down and the skin will become stiff and hard. During this hardening process, hair and sweat glands in the affected areas also disappear. There are researchers who believe that a tick bite may play a role. The tick bite introduces parasites into the skin, causing an inflammatory reaction. The evidence for this has not yet been provided.

The stages of morphea

Morfea has two different phases. The first phase is an active phase, during which the inflammatory response is active. The skin lesions have pink to blue-purple to brown-purple colored edges and the disease can still spread at this stage. Then comes the second phase, which is inactive. The skin becomes scarred and the skin thickness is reduced and the pigmentation of the skin can either increase or decrease. The scar tissue can restrict movement and make it difficult for the skin to heal in the event of injury. Open wounds, a leg length difference or abnormal growth can even occur.

Where on the body does it occur?

Morfea is relatively often seen in areas of the skin that are under prolonged pressure, such as the edges of tight clothing. It can occur anywhere on the body, including the face. Morphea usually remains in one or a few places on the skin and rarely large parts of the skin are affected. The spots persist for months to years, in some cases they may disappear over the years.


Many treatments have been described for morphea. However, none of these therapies lead to complete healing, so there is no definitive therapy yet. Corticosteroid-containing creams are often prescribed as anti-inflammatory agents. Light therapy with UVA and UVB light can also be tried. Because some researchers believe that the cause is a tick bite, antibiotic treatment is sometimes given in the early stages. Because morphea can sometimes disappear spontaneously, it is sometimes decided to wait and see. If the area is extinguished after the second phase, therapy is no longer useful. Then you can keep the skin with scars greasy and supple.

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