The two subtypes of localized scleroderma — morphea and linear scleroderma — mainly affect the skin and sometimes the underlying muscles or bones, but do not affect internal organs and do not reduce life expectancy.
Localized scleroderma is a chronic disease of unknown origin, and is considered rare. Only 0.3 to 3 cases for every 100,000 people are diagnosed per year, and it is more common in Caucasian women (2 to 4 women for every man). Its prevalence is similar in children and adults. For adults, it is usually diagnosed near age 50.
Some studies suggest that localized scleroderma is not exclusively a disease of the skin — some cases involve internal organs and connective tissue disorders. Sometimes localized cases transition to the more serious systemic scleroderma — especially in adults.
Usually, the development of the skin disease happens a few months before systemic manifestations occur, but systemic symptoms may or may not occur at the same time or at all with cutaneous (skin) disease activity.
Some people with localized scleroderma experience arthritis and joint limitations, eye disorders, neurologic disorders, localized hair loss, Raynaud’s phenomenon, muscle disorders, reflux, lung disorders, vasculitis, arrhythmia, and involvement of other tissues.
Because Raynaud’s phenomenon is one of the risk factors for developing systemic sclerosis, patients with the complication should be monitored closely.
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