Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Linked to Medical Malpractice

Written by Atlee Hall

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrosis (SJS/TEN) are severe skin conditions caused mainly by an illness or an allergic reaction to medications. Unfortunately, this severe and sometimes life-threatening condition often results from medical malpractice.

What is SJS/TEN?

SJS/TEN, also known as Lyell’s syndrome, can cause rashes, blisters, and eventual skin peeling. Your mucus membranes around your eyes, genitalia, and mouth can also be affected. If you have this condition, you’ll likely be admitted to a hospital, according to the Cleveland Clinic, because if it gets out of control, it can be fatal.

Who Gets SJS/TEN?

Children, adults younger than 30, and the elderly are most likely to have the condition. It’s more common in women than men.

What are the Symptoms?

About one to three days before an SJS/TEN rash develops, early signs, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Fever
  • Sore mouth and throat
  • Burning eyes
  • Fatigue

As the condition develops, other symptoms are:

  • Widespread skin pain
  • Spreading red or purplish rash
  • Blistered skin and the mucous membranes of your nose, mouth, genitals, and eyes
  • Shedding skin after blisters develop

When Should I Tell My Doctor?

SJS/TEN requires immediate attention, so talk to your physician if you think you may have this condition. You may be directed to the nearest emergency department.

What Causes SJS/TEN?

The condition is usually triggered by medication, an infection (including pneumonia and HIV), or both. SJS/TEN may develop while you’re using the medicine, and the risk continues for about two weeks after you stop using it. Infections are most likely to cause it in children, while drug allergies are the most common cause in adults.

What Drugs May Cause SJS/TEN?

Reactions to the following medications may cause the condition:

  • Gout treatments such as allopurinol
  • Anticonvulsants and antipsychotics used to treat mental illness and seizures
  • Antibacterial sulfonamides, including sulfasalazine
  • Nevirapine (or Viramune, Viramune XR)
  • Pain relievers, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen sodium (Aleve)

Some of these medications are very common, over-the-counter drugs. Just because they’re easy to get and buy doesn’t mean they’re not potentially dangerous.

What Increases the Risk of SJS/TEN?

Factors that may make you more likely to suffer the syndrome include:

  • HIV infection: Someone with HIV has about a hundred times greater risk than a person in the general population to get SJS/TEN
  • Impaired immune system: This can be due to immune-suppressing drugs taken after an organ transplant, HIV/AIDS, or an autoimmune disease
  • Blood-related cancer
  • A personal or family history of SJS/TEN
  • Genetic factors: Certain genetic variations increase your risk, especially if you’re using medications for mental illness, gout, or seizures

If you have one of these health issues, you must watch out for possible SJS/TEN symptoms when using a drug that may cause the condition.

How is SJS/TEN treated?

Treatments include:

  • Stopping the medication causing the problem
  • IV fluids with electrolytes
  • High-calorie food can promote healing
  • Pain relief medications
  • IV immunoglobulin, cyclosporine, and steroids
  • Amniotic membrane grafts for your eyes

You may be treated in a hospital intensive care or burn unit by specialists such as dermatologists and ophthalmologists if your eyes are impacted.

What are Potential SJS/TEN Complications?

The most severe is death which happens in about 10% of SJS cases and about half of TEN patients. Other complications may include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis
  • Shock
  • Multiple organ failure
  • Permanent skin damage

Many long-term side effects could last months to a lifetime.

How Medical Malpractice Might Lead to SJS/TENS?

Medical malpractice happens if a health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, hospital, or pharmacist, fails to provide care to an acceptable level. If this standard of care is not met, that person or organization is negligent and could be liable for the harm you suffered.

Medical malpractice includes all sorts of medical mistakes. It covers negligent or unnecessary actions. In an SJS/TEN case, medical malpractice may have occurred if:

  • Those prescribing or administering medications didn’t take enough care to be fully informed about the risks, warning signs, and how to prevent SJS/TEN from happening.
  • You weren’t adequately warned about SJS/TEN, so you couldn’t make an informed decision about the risks given your medical condition and your medications.
  • Healthcare providers failed to monitor you and recognize early symptoms, so they progressed without any medical intervention.
  • Being given the wrong dose could increase the risk of SJS/TEN. The condition may have been prevented or lessened if your dosage was gradually increased, instead of starting with a full dose.
  • Your SJS/TEN was undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As a result, you received no treatment to control it or were given medications that didn’t affect it and may have caused other medical problems.

Atlee Hall for a Better and Safer Tomorrow

We can’t make your SJS/TEN go away or turn back the clock. But the Lancaster, PA injury lawyers with Atlee Hall can make things better for you and hold the responsible parties accountable for their medical malpractice. In doing so, we hope to change their ways and prevent future suffering.

Getting justice for you today makes everyone safer tomorrow. Call us at (717) 393-9596 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation.