What is Stevens-Johnson syndrome?
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes. It usually involves an idiosyncratic reaction to a medication or an infection. Often, it begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful red or purplish rash that spreads and blisters. The top layer of the affected skin then dies, sheds and heals. All ages may be affected, and both sexes are equally susceptible. Stevens-Johnson syndrome has a 5%–15% mortality rate. Ocular involvement, which occurs in as many as half of patients, varies from mild conjunctivitis to severe perforating corneal ulcers. Blindness occasionally occurs in patients with severe late-phase corneal complications, such as chronic corneal ulceration, vascularization, and perforation.
How is the condition treated?
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalization. The first and most important step in treatment is to discontinue any medications that may be causing the condition. Supportive care you’re likely to receive while hospitalized includes fluid replacement and nutritional. Wound care is also essential. Your health care team may gently remove any dead skin and place petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or a medicated dressing over the affected areas. Early intervention is important in preventing ocular complications from Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Ocular lubrication with artificial tears and ointments (preferably preservative-free) should be applied regularly. All Stevens-Johnson syndrome patients need emergent consultation with an ophthalmologist at the time of diagnosis.