We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Stevens Johnson Syndrome?

By A. Carter
Updated Feb 29, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS), also called erythema multiforme major, is a rare, skin disease that has the potential to be deadly. In some cases there is no known cause, but the most common triggers are an allergic reaction to medication or an infection.

The drugs most often linked to Stevens Johnson Syndrome include sulfonamides and penicillin, which are used to fight infection; anticonvulsants, which treat seizures; and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which dually relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some examples of NSAIDS are Allopurinol, Phenytoin, Carbamazepine, Vioxx, barbiturates, aspirin and ibuprofen.

The types of infections that can cause Stevens Johnson Syndrome include Herpes simplex or Herpes zoster, influenza, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), diphtheria, typhoid and hepatitis. At times, SJS has resulted from radiation therapy or ultraviolet light. Another form of the SJS skin disease is referred to as Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS). Penicillin has been linked to TENS.

Symptoms of SJS take up to two weeks from the time the patient takes the medicine to manifest. The initial warning signs occur over several days of flu-like symptoms: coughing, headaches, aching and feverishness, vomiting and diarrhea. The danger can escalate to rashes, skin peeling and skin lesions; blistering, particularly around the mouth, eyes, vagina or other areas; and inflammation of mucous membranes, which line internal organs and certain exposed body parts such as the nose, lips and ears.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome can affect people in any age group but most at risk are older people, possibly because they use more of the drugs associated with SJS; and those living with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition that is brought on by a virus and damages the effectiveness of the immune system. Stevens-Johnson syndrome also has shown up among children taking ibuprofen-based medications such as Advil® and children’s Motrin®. Carrying a gene known as HLA-B12 can make a person more susceptible to SJS.

Isolating the cause of Stevens-Johnson syndrome and TENS, if possible, is the first step in identifying the proper treatment. When spurred by drug therapies, the prescriptions can be stopped immediately.

If brought on by an infection, then doctors are likely to treat Stevens-Johnson syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis with an antibiotic first. In severe cases where the patient is losing fluid or skin is being lost, treatment must be handled in sterile environments – hospitals or burn units - to prevent progression of the infection. Some people may need to have fluid replaced by intravenous injection.

Those who have survived a first bout with Stevens-Johnson syndrome could face recurrence. It is recommended they avoid closely related medications if drugs caused the first episode and inform health care providers of a history with the disease. Patients could also opt to wear a medical information bracelet or necklace.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.