Screen Readers Skip to Content

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Published: 2015-10-06 - Updated: 2021-07-25
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)

Synopsis: Information regarding Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a disorder of the skin and mucous membranes - usually a reaction to medication or an infection. Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that commonly requires an affected person to be hospitalized. Treatment concentrates on elimination of the underlying cause, controlling the person's symptoms, as well as minimizing complications. Medications commonly used to treat Stevens-Johnson syndrome include pain medication, antibiotics, antihistamines and medication to reduce skin inflammation.

Main Digest

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. It is usually a reaction to a medication or an infection. Often times, Stevens-Johnson syndrome starts with flu-like symptoms, followed by a red or purplish painful rash that blisters and spreads. The top layer of the affected skin dies and then sheds.

Related

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that commonly requires an affected person to be hospitalized. Treatment concentrates on elimination of the underlying cause, controlling the person's symptoms, as well as minimizing complications. Recovery following Stevens-Johnson syndrome may take weeks to months, depending upon the severity of the condition. If it was caused by a type of medication, the person will need to permanently avoid the medication and others related to it.

Symptoms of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

SJS usually begins with fever, sore throat, and fatigue, which is commonly misdiagnosed and therefore treated with antibiotics. Ulcers and other lesions begin to appear in the mucous membranes, almost always in the mouth and lips, but also in the genital and anal regions. Those in the mouth are usually extremely painful and reduce the patient's ability to eat or drink. Conjunctivitis of the eyes occurs in about 30% of children who develop SJS. A rash of round lesions about an inch across arises on the face, trunk, arms and legs, and soles of the feet, but usually not the scalp.

People with Stevens-Johnson syndrome may experience a number of symptoms, to include hives, facial swelling, tongue swelling and skin pain. They may experience a red or purplish rash that spreads within hours to days, blisters on their skin and the mucous membranes of their nose, mouth, genitals and eyes, followed by shedding of their skin. A number of days before the rash develops, a person with Stevens-Johnson syndrome may also experience:

Immediate medical attention is required for people with Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It is important for a person with this syndrome to pursue emergency medical attention if they experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

Causes of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is rare and people have unpredictable reactions. A doctor might not be able to identify its exact cause, although usually it is triggered by an infection or a type of medication. Drugs that may cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome include the following:

Infections that may cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome include HIV, Hepatitis, Pneumonia and Herpes.

Risk Factors for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

A number of factors increase a person's risk of developing Stevens-Johnson syndrome. These factors include the following:

Complications of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Stevens-Johnson syndrome has a number of complications associated with it. These complications may include the following:

Testing and Diagnosis of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Tests and procedures used to diagnose Stevens-Johnson syndrome include a physical examination and skin test.

Doctors can often identify Stevens-Johnson syndrome based upon their medical history, a physical examination, signs of the disorder and symptoms.

To confirm the diagnosis, a doctor may remove a sample of the person's skin for testing in a laboratory.

Treating Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Stevens-Johnson syndrome requires a person to be hospitalized, often times in a burn unit or in an intensive care unit. The first and most important step in treating the syndrome is to discontinue any medications that might be causing it. Due to the fact that it is difficult to determine exactly which medication might be causing the issue, a doctor may recommend that an affected person cease taking all nonessential medications. Other forms of treatment include the following:

Medications commonly used to treat Stevens-Johnson syndrome include pain medication, antibiotics, antihistamines and medication to reduce skin inflammation. If the underlying cause of Stevens-Johnson syndrome can be eliminated and the person's skin reaction stopped, new skin starts to grow over affected areas within a number of days. In severe instances, full recovery might take a number of months.

Facts and Statistics

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.

In Other News:

You're reading Disabled World. See our homepage for informative disability news, reviews, sports, stories and how-tos. You can also connect with us on social media such as Twitter and Facebook or learn more about Disabled World on our about us page.

Disclaimer: Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on disabled-world.com does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.


Cite This Page (APA): Thomas C. Weiss. (2015, October 6). Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment. Disabled World. Retrieved September 26, 2021 from www.disabled-world.com/health/dermatology/skin/sjs.php