Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a potentially deadly skin disease that usually results from an adverse drug reaction. This disease causes many terrible symptoms, including epidermal detachment, which is where skin begins to peel off in large sheets. Often, this symptom looks like an extensive burn and can make the patient unrecognizable to friends and family, especially if it affects the face.

Other signs and symptoms of Stevens-Johnson syndrome include:

  • facial swelling
  • tongue swelling
  • lung damage
  • hives
  • skin pain
  • a red or purple skin rash that spreads
  • blisters on your skin and mucous membranes, especially in your mouth, nose and eyes

How SJS Symptoms Progress

When caused by an adverse drug reaction, SJS symptoms usually develop one to three weeks after taking the causative drug. Initially, patients experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and burning eyes. Then, after about three days, patients with SJS develop a rash. The rash quickly turns into skin lesions which tend to combine together, creating large blisters.

The hallmark SJS symptom is epidermal detachment, or skin shedding, which occurs when the blisters from SJS result in skin cell death. Medical research suggests that skin cells may die and detach because antibodies and antigens produced due to an overactive immune response get trapped under the skin. 

The morbid symptoms associated with Stevens Johnson Syndrome can leave permanent scars. Moreover, scarring on the eyes can cause permanent vision impairment or blindness. Of course, the most tragic SJS symptom is death, which occurs in up to 30% of SJS cases.

SJS Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing SJS can be difficult, particularly in its early stages and in milder cases. Often, a skin biopsy is helpful. However, SJS is usually diagnosed from a physical exam and from recognition of the distinctive signs and symptoms.

A person displaying symptoms of SJS should treat the situation as a medical emergency. Swift medical treatment is imperative in order to reduce morbidity and the chances of mortality. Although there is no definite treatment for SJS, patients are treated individually based on their symptoms. Because SJS symptoms are similar to those associated with extensive burns, SJS patients are often treated at a burn center.

Did you develop SJS symptoms after taking Dilantin, Zevalin, Provigil, Bextra, Celebrex, or antibiotics? If so, contact our attorneys to learn more about your legal rights and options. 

Published November 17, 2011 by