Localized Scleroderma is a disease that strictly affects the skin, causing abnormalities in the appearance. Scleroderma is a term used to describe hard skin. Localized means it only affects one area. In this case, localized scleroderma is not just on the face, but it affects the skin as a whole. It does not have any effects on underlying organs or tissues. The condition is not life-threatening, but it can have a major effect on your quality of life. One of the main symptoms of the disease is the morphing of the face. For this reason, localized scleroderma may also be called morphea. Getting knowledge and understanding of the condition can be very helpful.
What is Localized Scleroderma?
Localized scleroderma is considered a rheumatic disorder. It is an inflammatory disease that affects the skin. Most people do not have inflammation in the skin unless you get an insect bite, or you break the skin from an injury. The body naturally causes inflammation to help with the healing process. The blood rushes to that area to repair the damage. Localized scleroderma is different in that your skin will inflame for no reason. Along with the inflammation, your body produces a lot more collagen than the average person. Some people only wish they could get more collagen. The excess collagen makes the skin very hard. Collagen is meant to provide structural support. Wrinkles occur because the body stops producing the same amount of collagen. When there is too much structure, the skin is no longer soft and pliable.
The cause of localized scleroderma is unknown. In studying the condition, doctors have not noticed any connection through infections or heredity. If someone in the family has localized scleroderma, then you are at a higher risk for having the disease. The only thing that doctors have pinpointed when it comes to localized scleroderma is that it is an autoimmune disease. There are certain autoantibodies in the blood that are seen in nearly every patient with the disorder.
Types of Localized Scleroderma
There are two types of localized scleroderma. The first type is called localized scleroderma or Morphea. This form only affects the skin. It is the most common form. Thickened patches of skin develop and are usually pigmented. It is earlier lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. The patches that form are not painful, but they may itch. They come in different shapes and can go in different depths. Sometimes the patches go deep into the tissues of the skin as well. The second type of localized scleroderma is Generalized Morphea. Generalized morphea involves larger patches of skin, but is not as common. Arms and legs are affected mostly. Sometimes the majority of the body has these patches. It then leads to cosmetic changes that can be very difficult to handle. This form of scleroderma affects the joints as well. It makes it harder to move because there is too much skin over the joints. Linear scleroderma is very similar to generalized scleroderma. In more severe cases, the scleroderma causes a loss of tissue, particularly in the face.
A diagnosis of localized scleroderma starts with an examination of your symptoms. When you see the patches on the skin and see deformities in the face, you should see a physician. A biopsy of the patch is done. Blood samples may also be taken. It is rare, ultrasounds and MRIs are done. These tests show whether or not the tissues under the skin are affected. If they are, it can change the treatment method. Scleroderma may not be cured, but treatment can help a great deal.
Treatment for scleroderma is not typically invasive. The doctor may start with skin creams, especially if you have a lot of itching. UV light therapy is helpful as well. Steroids also help, but they can cause a lot of negative side effects. Medicines that suppress the immune system can prevent the excess collagen formation. Finally, surgery can be done to remove excess skin. Surgery is an option when problems reach the underlying tissues. If you have trouble moving and doing things, in general, you may need surgery. After surgery, you should feel much freer to move and not be hindered.
Localized scleroderma may be a condition that you are not familiar with. Hopefully now, you have a better understanding of what it is. There are several types of scleroderma. If you notice you have some of the symptoms, you should see a physician. Since the disease is inflammatory in nature, you should talk with a rheumatologist. They may refer you to other physicians as well. The good thing about scleroderma is that it does not typically cause any serious, life-threatening complications. The worst of your symptoms may be trouble moving the joints due to excess skin. Another problem is the cosmetic deformities. Understanding the symptoms and the overall impact of the disorder can help you better manage it.
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