Skip to main content
Accessibility|Contact|Privacy|Terms of Service

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

  • Published: 2015-10-06 : Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • 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

Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a form of toxic epidermal necrolysis, is a life-threatening skin condition, in which cell death causes the epidermis to separate from the dermis. The syndrome is thought to be a hypersensitivity complex that affects the skin and the mucous membranes. The most well-known causes are certain medications, but it can also be due to infections, or more rarely, cancers.

Main Document

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

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.

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

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:

Viral Infections: A person's risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome might be increased if they have an infection caused by a virus such as viral pneumonia, herpes, or hepatitis.

A History of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: If a person has had a medication-related form of the condition, they are at increased risk of a recurrence if they use the medication again.

A Family History of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: If an immediate family member has had Stevens-Johnson syndrome, or a related condition called, 'toxic epidermal necrolysis,' a person might be more susceptible to developing the syndrome as well.

A Weakened Immune System: If a person has a weakened immune system, they may have an increased risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome. A person's immune system can be affected by an organ transplant, HIV/AIDS, or autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

Having a Certain Gene: If a person has a gene called, 'HLA-B 1502,' they have an increased risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, especially if they take certain medications for seizures or mental illness. Families of Southeast Asian, Chinese, or Indian descent are more likely to carry this particular gene.

Complications of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

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

Secondary Skin Infection or, 'Cellulitis': Cellulitis may lead to life-threatening complications, to include sepsis.

Damage to Internal Organs: It is unusual for this condition to affect a person's internal organs. Yet it might cause inflammation of the person's kidneys, liver, or heart.

Blood Infection (Sepsis): Sepsis happens when bacteria from an infection enters a person's bloodstream and spreads throughout the person's body. Sepsis is a quickly progressing, life-threatening condition that may cause shock and organ failure.

Eye Issues: The rash caused by Stevens-Johnson syndrome may lead to inflammation of a person's eyes. In mild instances, this might cause dry eyes and irritation. In severe instances, it may lead to extensive tissue damage and scarring, resulting in blindness.

Permanent Skin Damage: When a person's skin grows back after Stevens-Johnson syndrome, it might have unusual bumps and coloring; the affected person may also have scarring. Lasting skin issues may cause the person's hair to fall out and their toenails and fingernails might not grow as they should.

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:

Eye Care: People with Stevens-Johnson syndrome might see an eye specialist.

Wound Care: Wet, cool compresses help to soothe blisters while the person heals. A health care team might gently remove any dead skin and place a medicated dressing over areas that are affected.

Nutrition and Fluid Replacement: Skin loss might result in notable loss of fluid from the person's body; replacing fluids is an important part of treatment. The person may receive nutrients and fluids through a tube placed via the person's nose and into their stomach called a, 'nasogastric tube.'

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.

Awareness: Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)

Light blue awareness ribbonThe light blue ribbon denotes Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) Awareness. The month of August is SJS Awareness Month (U.S.). SJS was first discovered in 1922 by two pediatricians A.M. Stevens and S.C. Johnson after diagnosing a child with severe ocular and oral involvement to a drug reaction. Almost any medication including over the counter drugs can cause SJS.

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Facts: SJS Symptoms

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.

Statistics: Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Similar Topics

1 : Leucoderma - White Spots and Patches on Skin : Disabled World.
2 : Why Do Patients with Shingles Feel Pain :
3 : Red Skin Rash: Causes and Treatment of Contact Dermatitis : Advanced Dermatology P.C..
4 : June is Scleroderma Awareness Month : Scleroderma Foundation.
5 : Dark Spots on Face Pollution Related : Elsevier.
From our Skin Conditions section - Full List (58 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

1 : Telemedicine Helps Overcome Healthcare Gender Based Barriers
2 : Screen Reader Plus Keyboard Helps Blind, Low-Vision Users Browse Modern Webpages
3 : Our Digital Remains Should be Treated with Same Care and Respect as Physical Remains
4 : Tungsten: Concern Over Possible Health Risk by Human Exposure to Tungsten
5 : Student Loan Discharge Process for Disabled Veterans Made Easier
6 : Growing Bone and Cartilage Tissues for Humans from Flaxseed Like Particles
7 : Throat Reflexes Differ in People with Tetraplegia and Sleep Apnea
8 : UTA Grant to Help Minority Students Link Assistive Technology with Disability Studies
9 : Body Probe as Thin as a Hair Has Imaging Function and Temperature Sensor
10 : Dripping Candle Wax Bone Disease (Melorheostosis) Cause Solved

Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™