What is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is an uncommon but painful skin condition which can result in severe burn-like symptoms and possibly even death. With SJS, the skin blisters and the top layer of affected skin eventually sheds off. The painful blisters spread to mucus membranes throughout the body. SJS can be caused by an adverse reaction to a medication, often from an overdosing or misdosing of medication.

What Are the Symptoms of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?

When SJS is caused by an adverse reaction to a medication, symptoms typically appear one to three weeks after the person started taking the medication.

1-3 Days Before the Rash Develops

Before the rash develops, patients typically experience flu-like symptoms that include:

  • Sore throat and mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Burning eyes
  • Body aches
  • Cough

After Flu-Like Symptoms:

Once the flu symptoms have occurred, unexplained and widespread skin pain usually develops. After this occurs, a red or purple-colored rash begins to spread throughout the body. The rash is followed by blisters appearing on the skin—usually starting on the face and chest. The blisters soon spread to the body’s other mucus membranes in the throat, eyes, digestive tract, genitals, and anus.

Symptoms of Mucus Membrane Involvement:

Early symptoms of blisters spreading to mucus membranes throughout the body include light sensitivity, itching or burning of the eyes, and pain when swallowing. Mouth and throat injuries, including painful blisters, trouble swallowing, and breathing, can also manifest.

Eye Symptoms

As the condition progresses, eye symptoms may occur such as:

  • Severe conjunctivitis
  • Discharge
  • Iritis
  • Corneal blisters

The eye damage may become long-term, possibly leading to vision loss.

Genital Symptoms

The genitals may also be impacted by the blisters, with symptoms such as:

  • Inflammation of the urethra
  • Vaginitis
  • Painful blisters
  • Difficulty urinating

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Other complications

How Long Do Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Symptoms Last?

SJS symptoms usually continue for about two weeks before the skin and mucus membranes begin to heal themselves. However, it may take many weeks or even months to fully recover. During this time, the remaining attacked skin may peel and fall off before beginning to heal. As the skin heals, it begins to regrow. However, it may grow back unevenly in color and scarring may occur in addition to permanent issues with the eyes and organs.

Serious Complications of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Some serious complications from SJS include:

  • Dehydration in areas where the skin has shed is common. This is in addition to bodily dehydration caused by blisters in the mouth and throat that make fluid consumption painful.
  • Blood infection (sepsis) can occur when bacteria from an infection enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. Sepsis can cause shock and multiple organ failure, which may result in death.
  • Meningitis–an infection of the membrane and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
  • Eye problems can result from the rash caused by SJS and lead to eye inflammation, dry eye, and light sensitivity. In more severe cases, the rash may lead to visual impairment and potentially blindness.
  • Respiratory failure.
  • Permanent skin damage may occur after skin grows back, potentially resulting in bumps, discoloration, scars, hair loss, and abnormal growth of fingernails and toenails.

Can Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Be Fatal?

The most serious complication of SJS is death. Mortality from SJS cases is determined primarily by the extent of skin sloughing (the process of shedding dead surface cells from the skin). When the body surface area (BSA) impacted is less than 10%, the morality rate is approximately 1-5%. However, when more than 30% BSA sloughing is present, the mortality rate increases to between 25% and 35% and may even rise to as high as 50%. Bacteremia (presence of bacteria in the bloodstream) and sepsis (body’s response to an infection that can damage multiple organ systems) also play a substantial role in mortality in SJS cases.

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You:

Our team of Minnesota Stevens-Johnson Syndrome lawyers has the experience and expertise needed to bring a complex medical malpractice claim on behalf of someone diagnosed with SJS. We have over 30 years of experience holding negligent medical providers accountable. Contact us today for a free consultation. Leave the sleepless nights to us.