Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Clinical Services

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

What is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome, sometimes called Lyell’s syndrome, is a rare, serious skin peeling disorder that typically occurs after an allergic reaction to medication and often requires hospitalization. Symptoms include a painful skin rash and flu-like fever, coughing, and body pain. The syndrome can also affect the eyes, including causing conjunctivitis, scarring, inflation, and blisters in the eyes that can lead to permanent vision loss. It is important to treat this condition as a medical emergency. Treatment includes replenishing electrolytes, dressing wounds, and providing pain medications and antibiotics. It can take months to fully recover.

Causes of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is most often caused by and allergic reaction to a medication, including some drugs used to treat seizures, gout, and kidney stones. Medications known to cause the condition include certain antibiotics, antibacterial sulfa drugs, anti-epileptic drugs, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Even over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve, have been tied to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

When medication triggers the syndrome, flu-like symptoms appear within a few weeks of beginning the medication. A skin rash and peeling would follow. Infections or vaccinations might also trigger Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. A combination of factors makes patients more likely to develop this syndrome, including a genetic bias that accompanies specific human leukocyte antigens.

Symptoms of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, pain, fatigue, body aches, peeling skin, and red blotches and rash on the skin. Patients will experience blisters and sores on the skin and mucus membranes of the mouth, throat, eyes, and genitals. The blisters can cause drooling, eye closure, and painful urination. The rash can also lead to eye inflammation, dry eyes, and light sensitivity. Some patients may experience visual impairment and, in rare cases, blindness. Other serious complications can include pneumonia, sepsis, shock, organ failure, respiratory failure, and even death.

Diagnosis of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

An ophthalmologist or dermatologist may be the first to make a diagnosis. A doctor will discuss your symptoms and medical history, and complete a physical examination, including looking at the skin and mucous membranes affected. A skin culture and biopsy will be conducted. X-rays may be conducted to check for pneumonia and blood tests may be done to look for infection or other possible causes. Children, adults under age 30, and the elderly are most commonly affected. It occurs more commonly in females.

Treatment of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

The first step will be to discontinue the medication that triggered the syndrome. You may be put on IV fluids and dressing will be placed on the affected skin. Antibiotics and pain medication will also be administered. Sometimes, care for Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is administered in a hospital’s intensive care or burn unit.

What you can expect at the Cizik Eye Clinic

The Cizik Eye Clinic opened in 2007 and is housed in Memorial Hermann Plaza at 6400 Fannin Street. It includes dozens of exam areas, multiple operating rooms, and laser suites equipped with the most sophisticated equipment available for patient care.         

People travel from across the country and the world for treatment at the Cizik Eye Clinic, in part because our affiliation with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth provides unmatched resources and expertise. Our friendly staff works diligently to make your visit pleasant and efficient, as we maximize patient flow through everything from routine eye exams to the most advanced eye surgeries.

Our physicians are faculty members at McGovern Medical School and are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology or are board eligible. At the Cizik Eye Clinic, we understand that the eye is a small part of a whole patient who deserves top-notch, comprehensive care in a cutting-edge facility.

Contact Us

At Robert Cizik Eye Clinic, we offer patients access to highly specialized eye and vision care. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-9400, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.