Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Rash

Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a rare, severe allergic reaction of the skin and mucous membranes, most often to medication. One of the first physical signs of the illness is a rash.

Before the rash develops, the patient has a flu-like set of symptoms for between 1 and 14 days. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome symptoms include fever, body aches, cough, sore throat and headache. Then a rash begins to develop.

The rash first appears as discolored red and purple flat spots on the skin that become

  • Small superficial elevated spots
  • Small fluid filled blisters
  • Larger blisters filled with pus
  • Localized swellings or welts
  • Red areas that merge together

These lesions’ centers may be small, fluid-filled sacs; purple-colored spots; or dead tissue. It is common for them to be two-colored (red and purple) and target shaped. The target-shaped spot is a way to diagnose the condition.

This rash can then become large elevated blisters that burst, leaving the layers of skin below exposed and susceptible to infection. Extensive areas of the skin can peel off. The infection can cause scarring.

The rash may occur on just one part of the body, usually the trunk. The mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, anus, and genital areas develop small blisters. Persons with Stevens-Johnson syndrome have reported severe pain and say they feel terrible. The skin of the affected areas hurts.

Reactions to Drugs May Cause Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Medications that have been linked to SJS include:

  • Sulfa drugs (the most common cause of SJS)
  • Other antibiotics
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (that can be prescribed or over-the-counter)
  • Anticonvulsant medications
  • Drugs to treat gout
  • Barbiturates
  • Some vaccinations

More recently reported drugs:

  • Cocaine
  • The antidepressant mirtazapine
  • Anti-tumor drugs, including infliximab, etanercept, and adalimumab

Patients with AIDS and others with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of getting SJS. Infections that may lead to the disorder include:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes simplex and herpes zoster
  • Typhoid
  • Influenza
  • Diphtheria

Graft-vs.-host disease, radiation therapy and ultraviolet light also have been linked to the syndrome.

The illness is labeled Stevens-Johnson syndrome when 10 percent or less of the body surface area is involved. If 30 percent or more of the body surface area is affected, the syndrome, with the same symptoms, is called toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). When between 10 and 30 percent of the skin is damaged, the syndrome is considered an overlap of SJS and TEN. When a person has TEN, the skin may slough off in sheets. When the condition spreads to large areas of the body, persons are at an increased risk of death

For more information about Stevens-Johnson syndrome and its symptoms including rash, contact our Stevens-Johnson Syndrome lawyers today