Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a little-known but life-threatening disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. It is caused by an allergic reaction to prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and, although SJS typically starts off with mild flu-like symptoms, it can rapidly progress into a blistering, peeling rash that can become necrotic. Without treatment, many patients can die from complications of the disease.
In some instances, patients may not be aware they are allergic to certain medications. However, in others, developing or failing to treat SJS may be the result of medical negligence or malpractice.
What is SJS? What is TEN?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a serious disorder of the skin. The top layer of skin dies, sheds, and heals after a few days. SJS should be considered a medical emergency, with care focusing on eliminating the cause and treating the wounds.
If SJS progresses to cover 30 percent or more of the skin’s surface, the condition is called toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). TEN can be a life-threatening condition, as lesions can appear on the mucous membranes, including eyes, mouth, throat, genitals and lungs.
What are the symptoms of SJS?
SJS/TEN is most often caused by an allergic reaction to a particular drug. Some drugs commonly associated with SJS/TEN include:
- Acne medications
- Cold medications and pain relievers
- Gout medications
- Seizure medications
- Sulfa drugs or drugs including sulfa
The Mayo Clinic reports the initial symptoms of SJS as similar to the flu, including fever, a sore mouth and throat, fatigue and burning eyes. However, as it progresses, more serious symptoms develop, including:
- Unexplained widespread skin pain
- A red or purplish rash that spreads
- Blisters on your skin and the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes and genitals
- Shedding of skin within days after blisters form
What is the treatment for SJS?
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome can occur after a single dose of medication. The condition must be treated in a hospital, typically in the Intensive Care or Burn Unit. The doctor’s first step should be discontinuing whatever might be causing the SJS or TEN, then treating the symptoms. The treatments that can be used once SJS or TEN is diagnosed, includes:
- Stopping antibiotics or medication to control infection
- Prescribing Corticosteroids to manage inflammation
- Administration of Intravenous fluids and nutrition
- Providing Oxygen or ventilator(s) to assist with breathing
When might SJS and TEN be a result of medical malpractice?
Some patients may develop SJS and TEN, or have their injuries worsened, due to physician negligence or medical errors. Many doctors are not trained to properly recognize the early symptoms of SJS, and allow it to progress until it is too late. You or a loved one may also have been a victim of malpractice if:
- A drug treatment is not stopped after you display an allergic reaction
- A medical provider administers incorrect medication, which results in SJS or TEN
- Your doctor prescribes a medication to which you have a known allergy
- Your or your loved one’s physician fails to diagnose SJS in a timely manner
- Discharge from the emergency department of a hospital with signs and symptoms consistent with SJS/TEN
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and TEN are painful and debilitating conditions and must be diagnosed before they have time to progress. If you feel you or a loved one developed SJS or TEN or failed to receive proper treatment for SJS/TEN, the South Carolina attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC want to hear your story. To schedule a free consultation, call 803-327-7800, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood