Don’t catch it if you have a say in the matter, which you might…
Stevens–Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a type of severe skin reaction. Together with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and Stevens–Johnson/toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN), it forms a spectrum of disease, with SJS being less severe. Erythema multiforme (EM) is generally considered a separate condition. Early symptoms of SJS include fever and flu-like symptoms. A few days later, the skin begins to blister and peel, forming painful raw areas. Mucous membranes, such as the mouth, are also typically involved. Complications include dehydration, sepsis, pneumonia and multiple organ failure.
The most common cause is certain medications such as lamotrigine, carbamazepine, allopurinol, sulfonamide antibiotics and nevirapine. Other causes can include infections such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae and cytomegalovirus, or the cause may remain unknown. Risk factors include HIV/AIDS and systemic lupus erythematosus.
The diagnosis of Stevens–Johnson syndrome is based on involvement of less than 10% of the skin. It is known as TEN when more than 30% of the skin is involved and considered an intermediate form when 10–30% is involved. SJS/TEN reactions are believed to follow a type IV hypersensitivity mechanism. It is also included with drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS syndrome), acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP) and toxic epidermal necrolysis in a group of conditions known severe cutaneous adverse reactions (SCARs).
Treatment typically takes place in hospital such as in a burn unit or intensive care unit. Efforts may include stopping the cause, pain medication, antihistamines, antibiotics, intravenous immunoglobulins or corticosteroids. Together with TEN, SJS affects 1 to 2 people per million per year. Typical onset is under the age of 30. Skin usually regrows over two to three weeks; however, complete recovery can take months. Overall, the risk of death with SJS is 5 to 10%.