Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a condition that results in severe skin reactions, including rashes and blisters that can progress to third degree burn-like intensity. SJS may result from many causes, though adverse drug reactions are often reported in conjunction with the condition. SJS is also known and sometimes referred to as Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) in severe cases. SJS/TEN were once thought to be rare, but that may have been the result of a general lack of awareness. Understanding has increased, but misdiagnosis and overlooked symptoms are still prevalent and only serve to exacerbate this serious and sometimes fatal condition.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome occurs almost twice as often in males as females and more often in the young than in seniors, though rarely in infants.
The primary cause of SJS/TEN is an allergic reaction to certain dangerous drugs. Although this is not an exhaustive list, the drugs most commonly associated with SJS/TEN include:
- Antibiotics like Penicillin, Amoxicillin, Ampicillin
- Sulfa drugs like sulfa and combination drugs including sulfa like Bactrim
- Tetracycline and Accutane used to treat acne
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, also marketed as Advil and Motrin
- Tegretol, Dilantin and Depakote, used to treat seizures
- Phenobarbital and other sedatives
- Allopurinal and other drugs used to treat gout
- Cox-2 inhibitors (such as Bextra, Celebrex)
- Lenalidomide (Revlimid)
- Herbal supplements with ginseng
- Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
- Tamiflu and Lamictal, used to treat viral and fungal illnesses
Although SJS/TEN can strike anybody, people who have compromised or immature immune systems (such as HIV or lupus patients, the elderly and children) are most at risk. The symptoms of SJS/TEN can be nothing short of horrifying. Complications include:
- Pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs)
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the muscles in the heart)
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
- Kidney failure
- Sepsis (blood infection)
How is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome treated?
The first step after diagnosis of SJS is to determine the underlying cause. If it is a drug reaction, as is often the case, the offending agent should be stopped immediately in hopes of preventing further reaction. If the cause is an infection, then the appropriate treatment should be immediately pursued in addition to the treatment of SJS symptoms. Oral and topical corticosteroids are often used to reduce the rash and swelling symptoms in less severe cases or to prevent the progression of worsening symptoms.
More severe SJS cases are often referred to various experts depending on the body systems involved. For those with blisters involving the eyes and eyelids, examination by an ophthalmologist is recommended so precautions can be taken to avoid permanent eye damage. Those who experience severe burn-like effects of the skin are often referred to burn treatment centers, where their damaged skin and compromised body systems are treated like that of a burn victim. These severe cases need fluid replacement, scrupulously sterile environments for infection prevention, and skin graft consultation that burn centers and their resident professionals can provide.
Are certain people more susceptible to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?
A recent study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that people of Asian descent are more susceptible to SJS reactions when treated with a certain epilepsy drug known as carbamazepine. The study found that a gene variant known as HLA-B*1502, which is present in about 10 percent of people of Han Chinese descent, is associated with increased incidences of SJS/TEN. The FDA recommends that people of Asian descent undergo genetic screening for this gene before taking carbamazepine-containing drugs.
What should I do if I have been affected by SJS?
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome cases can be extremely complex, often resulting in large medical bills for extensive treatment and long-term effects that can be permanently disabling. Consequently, you may need an experienced Stevens-Johnson Syndrome lawyer on your side to help meet your legal needs. At our law firm, we believe that people who have experienced SJS need a drug injury attorney who understands what they are going through and is prepared to advocate on their behalf. If you or someone you know has suffered from this debilitating skin condition, we would like to help.
Contact the Drug Injury Lawyers of Shamis & Gentile, P.A.
The lawyers at Shamis & Gentile, P.A. are committed to the needs of their clients and their families. That is why we stay on top of emerging information in dangerous drugs. We provide tough, aggressive representation for families who have suffered from injuries caused by Stevens-Johnson Syndrome or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. For a free consultation, call us at 305-479-2299 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.