Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a disease that can be caused by an allergic reaction to drugs. The drugs associated with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome include antibiotics (penicillin), anti-convulsant drugs, and NSAIDs pain relievers. Prescribed pain relievers, such as Bextra and Celebrex and over the counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen trigger the reaction. Perhaps, more worrisome is the widespread epidemic being diagnosed in both adults and children. An estimated 200,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome patients suffer from inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes. Since mucous membranes are present in many organs throughout the body, such as the eyes, digestive system, lungs, and respiratory system, they are at risk of being affected during the disease process. SJS has the potential for severe morbidity and in some cases, to be fatal.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome typically begins as an innocent rash, which can continue to spread to other parts of the body. Rapidly developing blisters and lesions resembling second-degree burns replace the rash on the body parts. The body's immune system is attacked inside and out through the skin and mucous membranes by SJS. Scarring of the lung tissue can close the airways in victims.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a type of an immune-complex-mediated hypersensitivity (allergic) condition. It is one of three skin related diseases of varying severity, the others being Erythema Multiforme (EM) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN).
Erythema Multiforme is the least severe of the three related skin diseases. EM is noticeable in the form of a classic skin lesion with minimal chance of spreading throughout the body. The majority being diagnosed with EM are young adults under twenty and one third of them have a recurrence of the disease.
Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis is a life threatening and usually drug induced dermatological condition that occurs more in senior citizens than any other age group. The higher incidence is due to the different type of prescription drugs taken by the elderly. TEN mimics a hypersensitivity reaction of a rash in its initial stage, then blisters appear rapidly on the body by repeated exposure to the medication. The common cause of death is infection for TEN sufferers, which can be contracted through the exposed areas of the flesh as the skin has peeled away. Survivors are usually both debilitated and disfigured.
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a serious and potentially deadly condition that must be treated accordingly. First, the cause of the condition must be identified. Often, doctors misdiagnose their patients because they are unfamiliar with the disease, its symptoms, and its debilitating effects. In some cases, doctors prescribe higher dosage of the drug causing Stevens-Johnson Syndrome in the patient. This will cause more harm and could kill the sufferer.
Treatment with corticosteriods is controversial since researchers believe the medication might aggrevate the condition. Studies have suggested that steroid treatment prolongs wound healing and increases risk of infection to the patient. Other studies indicate that it is common practice to prescribe steroids to quell an overactive immune system. The corticosteroid debate concerning its use to treat SJS will continue, as a definitive answer has not come from researchers.
Researchers are studying the administration of intravenous immunoglobulin treatment to patients. No definitive answer has come from case studies, but negative responses have circulated on the treatment. They include the expense of the treatment, a possible risk of transmission of infectious agents, and renal failure.
Sadly, no treatment can halt a Stevens-Johnson Syndrome reaction once it has begun. All researchers agree the best course of action is to help a SJS sufferer cope with the secondary manifestations of the disease. The key to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome treatment is recognition of the medication causing the SJS reaction and cease the drug use.
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