Morphea has no known cure. Treatment of morphea focuses on controlling signs and symptoms and slowing spread.
Because morphea may get better on its own without treatment, because most treatments have side effects and because morphea has no one proven treatment, your doctor may suggest no treatment or treatment with a mild topical corticosteroid cream. In some cases, your doctor may recommend additional treatments. It's important for you to weigh the risks and benefits. Treatments may include:
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- Light therapy. A special treatment that uses ultraviolet light may improve your skin's appearance, especially when used soon after skin changes appear.
- Corticosteroids. Your doctor may prescribe these medications early in the course of treatment to reduce inflammation and prevent thickening of the collagen. They can be taken either orally or topically or in both forms. An increased risk of infection, high blood pressure, bone loss and fluid retention are possible side effects associated with the use of oral corticosteroids.
- Calcipotriene cream. This prescription cream is a synthetic form of vitamin D that may help lessen the effects of morphea. Skin generally begins to improve during the first months of treatment. Possible side effects include burning, stinging and a rash.
- Antimalarial drugs. Medications such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) or chloroquine (Aralen phosphate) may be used to help reduce inflammation and slow the progress of the disease. Potential side effects may include headache, dizziness, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.
- Immunosuppressive medications. Your doctor may prescribe drugs, such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) or cyclosporine (Neoral, Gengraf, Sandimmune), to control your immune system and reduce inflammation. However, these medications can have serious side effects, including an increased risk of infections, kidney and liver problems, and high blood pressure.
- Physical therapy. This type of treatment uses stretching, strengthening and range-of-motion exercises to improve the mobility of your joints.
- Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=2968193. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7234-3541-9..X0001-6--TOP&isbn=978-0-7234-3541-9&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Scleroderma. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scleroderma/default.asp. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Localized scleroderma. Scleroderma Foundation. http://www.scleroderma.org/pdf/Medical_Brochures/Localized.pdf. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Badea I, et al. Pathogenesis and therapeutic approaches for improved topical treatment in localized scleroderma and systemic sclerosis. Rheumatology. 2009;48:213.
- Morphea. National Institutes of Health. http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/Condition/10485/Morphea.aspx. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Valanclene G, et al. Pathogenesis and treatment modalities of localized scleroderma. Medicina (Kaunas). 2010;46:649.
- Fett NM. Morphea: Evidence-based recommendations for treatment. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology. 2012;78:135.
- Zancanaro PCQ, et al. Localized scleroderma in children: Clinical, diagnostic and therapeutic aspects. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2009;84:1.
- Mild psoriasis: Non-steroidal prescription topical treatments. National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments/topicals/non-steroid. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Prednisone. PubMed Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000091/. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Plaquenil (prescribing information). Bridgewater, N.J.: Sanofi-Aventis; 2006. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/009768s041lbl.pdf. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Neoral (prescribing information). East Hanover, N.J.: Novartis; 2009. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/050715s028,050716s029lbl.pdf. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). American College of Rheumatology. http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/medications/methotrexate.asp. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/nd/PrintVersion.aspx?cs=MAYO&s=ND. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.