Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a life-threating skin disease that is linked to, among other SJS causes, the usage of some prescription drugs. The condition appears spontaneously and progresses rapidly. Many doctors who treat the disorder describe it by saying it’s like burning from the inside out. Complications arising from the disease are usually permanent and can be highly debilitating in some cases. Many people who suffer through SJS symptoms are eventually left blind and scarred all over their bodies.
There are several possible SJS causes, but how they manifest exactly is not completely understood. Physicians believe the disease only affects people with an underlying immune system disorders. The immune system is responsible for responding to most foreign bodies and organisms entering the body. In some people, this response is hypersensitive, causing the immune system to attack healthy cells and cause damage to otherwise unaffected areas. This is the case with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and people who have SJS symptoms may be responding to one of many stimuli. These include infections like AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, mumps, influenza and many other viral infections. Bacteria agents may include diphtheria, brucellosis, typhoid, mycobacteria and several other bacterial and fungal species.
Many people, though, contract the disease after taking certain medications. Some common drugs that researchers have found a positive link to include ibuprofen, isotretinoin, fluconazole, allopurinol, barbiturates, penicillins, and sulfonamides, among many other medications. In most cases, the offending drug is an antibiotic, sulfonamide or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. SJS causes may be more likely to affect people if they possess a certain genetic mutation. People with the HLA-B58 genetic marker are much more likely to contract the disease if they take allopurinol.
Once the condition begins necrotizing tissue, widespread cell death of the epidermis causes it to separate from the dermis layer of the skin. At this point, the skin will start sloughing off the body, exposing the patient to severe secondary infections or leaving theme dangerously dehydrated. SJS symptoms initially present with fever, sore throat, coughing and burning eyes. This is often misdiagnosed by any doctor examining the patient. Shortly after this subsides, massive skin tissue necrosis begins. Facial swelling, tongue swelling, hives, pain, blisters on the skin and mucus membranes, a red or purple rash and skin shedding are all common elements of the disease. The rash normally spreads to most parts of the body, though it may be localized in some cases. Mortality rates depend on several factors. Younger patients and patients with a localized rash are much more likely to survive. While there are many SJS causes, the disease progresses in the same fashion whether the underlying stimulus is bacterial, viral or drug related.
Treatment for this disease is similar to treating severe burns, and people suffering from it are usually kept in the ICU burn unit of a hospital. Patients may be advised to discontinue any nonessential medications while they undergo treatment. There is no cure for the disorder, so doctors focus on providing supportive care. This includes replenishing fluids, dulling pain and protecting the patient from infection.
Anyone who has contracted this disease should consider contacting a drug injury lawyer to review their options for possible compensation. Doctors who prescribe medications to people with known risk factors are acting negligently, and victims have a right to seek restitution.